Antonina Ermolenko, Chris Fecteau, Boris Derow, Matt Mueller, and Jennifer Gliere
Helmed by Maestro Chris Fecteau and his lovely wife Karen Rich, the dell'Arte Opera Ensemble is well known for their training of young opera singers and crowd-pleasing operatic productions. Last night, in the Harvard Club's magnificently appointed dining room, new ground was broken by means of a tribute to Ukraine.
Feelings for Ukraine run high in New York City and even our Russian friends want Zelensky to succeed. In the midst of such tragic bloodshed, there is a small glimmer of good; that is the recent fostering of interest in Ukrainian music, as several institutions have been presenting concerts highlighting music that we have never heard before--music that merits our attention and admiration.
Last night's concert paid attention to art songs by Reinhold Gliere, Yakiv Stepovyi, Sergei Bortkiewicz, Platon Mayboroda, Mykola Lysenko, Kyrylo Stetsenko, and Anatoliy Kos-Anatolsky. Please don't feel ignorant if these names are unknown to you; they were to us as well. It will take a greater exposure for us to learn to distinguish one from another, just as it took awhile for us to learn the differences between the Rossini sound and the Bellini sound.
That being said, there is much in common in terms of mode and mood. The sound is filled with what we call "Slavic Soul", an undercurrent of sadness not unlike Portuguese fado, but leavened with snippets of joy and pleasure. At times, one is reminded of Brahms' folk songs.
Singers for the evening comprised sopranos Antonina Ermolenko and Jennifer Gliere (a descendant of the composer), tenor Boris Derow, and bass-baritone Matt Mueller. Accompanying the singers was Artistic Director of dell'Arte, Maestro Chris Fecteau himself who also gifted the audience with intermittent instrumental selections, our favorites of which were the soulful "Languor and Longing" and the more lighthearted "Impressions of a Joyful Day" from Lysenko's Album from the summer of 1902.
Regular readers know how highly we prize duets and we very much enjoyed the two sopranos joining voices for Gliere's "Summer". We wondered what it must feel like to sing works composed by one's ancestor! Ms. Gliere also impressed with "Sweetly Sang my Nightingale". The stunning Antonina Ermolenko flew in from Toronto to help celebrate Ukarine Independence Day and impressed with her finely wrought soprano. This set pf songs by Reinhold Gliere was particularly lovely with Mr. Mueller audibly enjoying the low tessitura of "Before me the sea is sleeping".
Mr. Derow gave a moving performance of a pair of songs by Stepovyi--"Not All Sorrows Have Died" and "Thought Follows Thought". Although no translations were available, we were dying to know what Gliere was relating in "The Mad Priest" in which Mr. Mueller seemed to be telling a most interesting tale, accompanied by Maestro Fecteau's march rhythm in the piano. Kos-Anatolsky's "White Roses", by contrast, seemed to have a tango rhythm.
It was a most pleasurable evening with guests enjoying a menu of Ukrainian delicacies along with the music!
© meche kroop