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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


 Shan Hai, Sophia Baete, Steven Blier, Bénédicte Jourdois, Scott Rubén LaMarca, and Michael J. Hawk
(photo lifted from FB feed LOL)

What a special evening! Every concert presented by Steven Blier's New York Festival of Song is special but last night at Merkin Hall the concert was even more special than usual and turned us into a musical detective.  Let us explain. 

The encore piece, an a cappella one, enthralled us and we have spent the rest of the night trying to find a poem by Garcia Lorca that was set by 20th c. Spanish composer Manuel Oltra. Our internet sleuthing arrived at a dead end but we did find a madrigal that might have been the one, and if it's not it was close enough. For your listening delight, here is the link ...https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8434650--madrigal  (We were unable to find the text in a listing of Garcia Lorca's poems.) 

The effect on us was an enchantment so profound that we failed to photograph the curtain call, as we usually do. Hence the forgivable (we hope) purloining of an uncredited photo on Facebook.  For this we apologize.

And now, Dear Reader, just know that in spite of some superb piano  accompaniment by the "tag team" of Mr. Blier, Bénédicte  Jourdois, and Amber Scherer for the "meat" of the concert, it is the encore piece that impressed us the most--like the sweetest dessert. The four voices blended so beautifully and expressed such delicious harmonies that no accompaniment could have added anything more.

The four exceptional vocalists comprised soprano Shan Hai, mezzo-soprano Sophia Baete, tenor Scott Rubén La Marca, and baritone Michael Hawk. The voices were all on point but what made the evening  more than usually successful was the artistic direction contributed by Ms. Jourdois. Instead of discrete numbers, the singers often introduced the following number by reciting the poetry or elucidating the meaning. This gave the evening a flow that made it seem much shorter than 90 minutes. It left us satisfied and yet yearning for more.

Whatever dramatic guidance the singers received, they picked it up and ran with it. Songs were brought to vivid life that drew the audience in. Let us share with you some of our favorites. We just couldn't keep from imagining how much fun Schubert may have had writing. "Die Liebesgötter" with text by Johann Peter Ute, who died before Schubert was born. In any case, Ms. Hai and Mr. La Marca had great fun bringing it to life.  How very expressive they were, capturing Schubert in a light-hearted mood!

Ms. Baete gave a beautiful performance of Eduardo Toldrà's "Madre uno ajuelitos vi" that touched the heart and Mr. Hawk achieved his finest moments in Cole Porter's "They Couldn't Compare to You" from the mid 20th c. Out of This World, also making good use of the talents of the other three artists.

This is just a taste of the glorious banquet spread before us last night. If you have never been to  NYFOS concert, Dear Reader, we hope our words have whetted your appetite. You can always count on discovering new songs, great voices, and also a bit of gender bending.

© meche kroop

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