We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Friday, November 11, 2022


 Emma Luyendijk, Jihye Seo, Chantal Freeman, and Dina Pruzhansky

It is always a great pleasure for us to find organizations that share our goal of helping young artists on their way--including, among others, Classic Lyric Arts and Career Bridges. Yesterday we were introduced to the very exciting Action for Artists, helmed by vocal coach and collaborative pianist William Hicks, whom we have listened to and admired for several years. His new project will award grants to emerging artists with, as they say, no strings attached. The six month grant will help with whatever the young singer, pianist, or composer needs and will be renewable for up to 2 years-- as long as the artist shows progress.

After a welcome by Mr. Hicks, the charming director Carol Castel. shared some words of wisdom from her late husband Nico Castel which was followed by an hour-long concert of beloved classics performed by some remarkable young artists and a reception. 

We have loved the compositions of Dina Pruzhansky for some time now, having heard her at Carnegie Hall and the 92nd St. Y. We heard two of her compositions last night, both excellent, with one of them highlighting what a gifted composer can do with the English language. We go numb when we hear deathless prose set to unmelodic music, but when we hear humorous text given a setting that highlights tha rhythm of the words and phrases, we feel fizzy with delight.

Sung by the splendid soprano Chantal Freeman, we heard "I am a Singer" from Ms. Pruzhansky's Heroes of New York. In this song (lyrics by singer Brianna Hunter), we are introduced to the exhausting life of a young singer with all of its trials and tribulations; Ms. Freeman captured the humorous mood perfectly, as did Ms. Pruzhansky's music.  In a second piece "Puzzling it Out" (lyrics by Mary Moore Easter) we made note of a lovely vocalise by Ms. Freeman.

The versatile soprano Jihye Seo was joined by the South African collaborative pianist Emma Luyendijk for two very different arias. In "Egli non riede ancora ...Non so le tetre immagini" from Verdi's Il Corsaro, the ill-fated Medora gives voice to her fearful premonitions as her beloved pirate Corrado will be going out to sea. Although you may not have ever seen the opera you would surely have recognized this gorgeous aria in 3/4 time which gave Ms. Seo the opportunity to show off a lovely legato, dynamics put to good expressive use, and an impressive messa di voce. Excellent breath control made possible an exquisite pianissimo.

Later in the program, she brought Pamina to life in "Ach, ich fühls" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. This sorrowful aria shows the character at her lowest moment as she fears abandonment by Tamino.

The third singer on the program was tenor Victor Starsky who excelled as an ebullient Rodolfo in "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Bohême. Mr. Starsky has a pleasing tonal quality and impressive acting chops, convincing us that he was an ardent young man out to win the affection of his modest neighbor. He acted just like any young man on a first date with someone for whom he feels intense attraction and wishes to impress.

He also sang "Je suis seul...Ah, fuyez, douce image" from Massenet's Manon. He surely conveyed the anguish of the abandoned Chevalier des Grieux as he, in spite of his clerical intentions, longs for his lost love. Mr. Starsky excels at using gesture and facial expression to limn his character, but he was most successful at drawing us into his grief and longing in the pianissimo phrases.

We were sorry when the singing ended. As much as we love bubbly, finger food, and socializing with the denizens of Planet Opera (and the room was filled with notables), we would have happily sacrificed that to hear more singing. Dear Reader, you have probably figured out by now that we were completely enchanted. Cheers to a worthy new organization which deserves our support.

© meche kroop

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