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.

Thursday, May 9, 2024


 Luc Cheng, Glenn Morton, Young Kwang Yoo, Kevin Jasaitis, Sofia Gotch,  Sofia Durante, Sara Stevens, John Viscardi, Eliza Masewicz, Maia Sumanaweera and Samuel Ng

Regular readers recall my enthusiasm for Classical Lyric Arts, a highly esteemed immersive summer training program for young singers  held in France, Italy, and the Berkshires. Here is some great news, Dear Reader! CLA has expanded into an all year program helping recent conservatory graduates to navigate the difficult period of launching a professional career. Assistance is given in many areas including (but not limited to)  navigating auditions and competitions,  choosing repertory wisely, choosing management, and of course the finer points of singing. We think of it as polishing the gems.

Last night a private recital was held to celebrate this launch and the fortunate members of the audience had an opportunity to hear a program of Italian love songs, arias, and duets. What better language than Italian to sing of love! Even speaking Italian sounds like a love song! Our host, Glenn Morton (Artistic Director of CLA), accompanied some of the singers and the talented Luc Cheng accompanied other singers , including Executive Director John Viscardi (a graduate of CLA) about whom more later.

If we have heard a better recital, we cannot recall. The CLA singers demonstrated fine technique in which we can find no flaws. Their Italian was universally perfect, evidence of the fine immersive training they received in Italy. What most astonished us however, was how each singer showed something we call stage worthiness. They not only understood the text and the emotions which generated it, but they managed to employ the dramatic skills learned from faculty member Daniel Isengart, using facial expression, gesture, and the physical space that was available to create believable dramatic situations.

There were about 15 pieces performed and we will attempt to describe a few to illustrate this. In Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia , Rosina persuades Figaro to get a note to the Count. Mezzo-soprano Sofia Durante created the character of the spunky young woman who is going to get her way whilst baritone Kevin Jasaitis was absolutely taken aback by her anticipation of his plot. They were so effective that one could imagine everything that led up to that moment and everything that would follow.

Ms. Durante also showed her aptitude for breeches roles in two scenes. From Bellini's I Capuletti e I Montecchi, we heard "Ah, crudel d'onor ragioni" in which Romeo and his Giulietta (soprano Sofia Gotch) sing a duet of conflict and anxiety. She also made a fine Nerone in duet with Poppea (soprano Maia Sumanaweera) from Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea. We heard this duet recently in which the singers "sexed it up" which removed the chemistry we felt from this performance as the singers slowly approached each other, heightening the anticipation.  Yes, we all know that Nero and Poppea were terrible people but in this opera you have to want them to triumph and so they did.

In a scene from Mozart's Don Giovanni, Mr. Jasaitis--now suave and perfectly self-assured--seduced a flirtatious Zerlina, adorably performed by soprano Eliza Masewicz. Each showed impressive comprehension of the character at that particular point in the opera.  In a different scene the seductive Don (Mr. Jasaitis who seems to own the role) performed the serenade "Deh vieni alla finestra" gazing upward at an actual window with the unknown woman actually there, lending verisimilitude to the performance.

The Cherry Duet from Mascagni's L'amico Fritz was performed by  Ms. Sumanaweera and tenor Samuel Ng with such intense chemistry that no one could have missed foretelling the romantic ending to the opera.

There were two entries from Puccini's tragic love story La Bohême. The Mimi of Act I was performed in a touching fashion by Sara Stevens, possessor of a huge and gorgeous soprano, who gave her all to "Mi chiamano Mimi". This was followed by "O soave fanciulla" with  Mr. Viscardi as the ardent Rodolfo (a role he just performed in Colorado, a role that fits him like a custom tailored suit).

There were also several more arias and songs to tickle our ears. We love Tosti's songs and Mr. Ng's impassioned delivery of "Ideale" perfectly captured the Italianate style, as did Mr. Viscardi's performance of "Sola tu manchi".

Ms. Gotch created a memorable Gilda from Verdi's Rigoletto, adorning the vocal line with precisely rendered coloratura flourishes. Similar technical precision was evinced by Ms. Masewicz performing "Qui la voce sua soave" from Bellini's I Puritani. We don't want to end without mentioning a funny moment. We were surprised when the photographer (whose photos are guaranteed to be better than ours) was called upon to sing. It turned out that Young Kwang Yoo had been pressed into service as photographer for the event and is actually an opera singer of terrific talent.

© meche kroop

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