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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023


 Brian Zeger, Francesco Barfoed, Joseph Parrish, Megan Moore, and Hera Hyesang Park

We understand that the planets of the solar system were all lined up last night and presumably visible in early evening in the Western sky. Rain and city lights likely made it impossible for New Yorkers to observe this interesting astronomical event. However, we participated in something even better--a lineup of vocal stars associated with The Juilliard School's  Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts. This stellar event took place at WQXR's The Greene Space and was introduced by the gracious announcer Midge Woolsey. The event was sponsored by the Gerda Lissner Fund-- Michael Fornabaio (President of the Lissner Charitable Fund). Karl Michaelis sponsored the Juilliard event at WQXR, which was the final entry in a 3-part series in partnership with WQXR including Manhattan School of Music, the Academy of Vocal Arts, and The Juilliard School.

The vocal gifts of these artists are so overwhelming that the listener can take for granted the fine points for which we are always listening. It becomes unnecessary to pick out details like dynamics and phrasing when the artistry is so flawless. Let us instead focus on what really counts in a vocal recital. Does the singer channel the intentions of the poet and the composer? Do we feel involved and connected? Do we perhaps get in touch with something private and access memories and feelings? Do we leave the concert feeling somehow enlarged in spirit?

Dear Reader, you have probably already guessed the answer.  Yes, yes, yes, and yes. We were enraptured for over an hour in a varied and interesting program, pulled into different worlds established by the singers.

Soprano Hera Hyesang Park was on loan from The Metropolitan Opera where she is enchanting audiences with her portrayal of Nanetta in Verdi's Falstaff. We will probably not get to see that performance but we think it's fair to say that Ms. Park has subsumed Nanetta's character, which showed in the girlish charm with which she sang "Non si da follia maggiore" from Rossini's Il Turco in Italia as well as Fiordiligi in the trio that ended the evening-- "Soave sia il vento" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.

But what a surprise to hear her show a bit of Iberian temperament in Maria Grever's "Te Quiero, Dijiste".  Our only disappointment is that the use of the detestable music stand marred the communication of Agustin Lara's Grenada. This is one of our favorite songs and we missed the thread of contact which should have remained unbroken. Still, the Spanish flavor was there, enhanced by the piano of Brian Zeger who just happens to be Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Program at Juilliard.

Mezzo-soprano Megan Moore achieved great depth of connection in a selection of lieder by Franz Schubert, who chose his poets wisely and added great emotion to the text with his melodic invention. Perhaps the reason contemporary songs seem so unmelodic is that Schubert used up all the melodies in his 600-plus lieder output.

In "Auf dem Wasser zu singen", the lilting piano of the excellent collaborative artist Francesco Barfoed introduced us to the timelessness of the waves and the transitory nature of our own existence. Ms. Moore captured Schubert's alternation of modes and moods with joyful expansiveness and melancholy introspection. "Im Fr├╝hling" reminds us of the bittersweetness of nostalgia, employing again the heart-piercing alternation of major and minor modes.

"Meeres Stille" takes on the concept of the calm before the storm with Ms. Moore showing us the fearful anticipation described by Goethe's text. Lest we expect that mood to last, we received Goethe's  joyous "Versunken" with memories of our own infatuations.  All these emotions were perfectly conveyed by Ms. Moore's many distinct colorations in a carefully calculated performance that came across as totally spontaneous, as it should. The audience applauded after every lied!

Ms. Moore also included songs by two 20th c. composers that were unknown to us but so pleasing to the ear that we want to hear more of them. Yvette Souviron wrote her own texts for "Carnavalito" and the sensual "Al Banco Solitario" and avoided the atonal pitfalls of most 20th c. composers. It was a surprising but welcome inclusion in the program, as was the Danish "Spring Song"  by Rued Langgaard, also unknown to us. The very lovely and tonal music pleased the ear and reminded us of the exultation attendant upon Spring's arrival as much as the Rachmaninoff song "Spring Waters".

The other singer on the program was bass-baritone Joseph Parrish who chose to sing quite a bit of Russian with excellent diction--two by Rachmaninoff--"Morning" and "My Child, You are as Beautiful as a Flower" with its lavish piano introduction. Mr. Parrish has a wondrously textured instrument and conveyed the stillness of daybreak described in Alezander Yanov's poetry.

His Tchaikovky selections presented a fine contrast. Our favorite was "Amid the Din of the Ball" and we couldn't keep from thinking of Onegin glimpsing Tatyana in the final act of the Tchaikovky opera. However, Tolstoy's  singer is hopeful and only dreams about the mysterious woman whereas Pushkin's ball-goer will push his case to Tatyana. In any case, Mr. Parrish brought out the wonder of the would be lover. Lermontov's narrator in "The Love of a Dead Man" is tormented by jealousy and is not sleeping peacefully and our singer captured that as well.

However, what we enjoyed most of his selections was his accompanying himself on the piano in Donny Hathaway's "A Song for You", setting of a text by Leon Russell. This bluesy song is, in our opinion, a true American art song, a heartfelt confession with interesting interplay between voice and piano. It was all the more meaningful because it was unexpected, unknown, and yet marvelously accessible and relatable.

The evening ended with the afore-mentioned trio from Cosi fan tutte with the three voices in splendid harmony; it sent us out into the rainy night feeling fulfilled by a superb concert and caring little about missing the planets.

© meche kroop

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