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 24, 2012


Thanks to the generosity of the Gerda Lissner Foundatiion, helmed by Stephen De Maio, fifty-four promising singers were given grants this year.  Ten of these performed a superb recital at Zankel Hall last night, hosted by Midge Woolsey,    
and honoring Joan Dornemann. 

The plum in the pudding was Wendy Bryn Harmer who won first prize in the Wagner Division and gave a performance of "Du bist der Lenz" from Act I of Wagner's Die Walküre. This beautiful soprano has been seen quite a lot at the Metropolitan Opera this season and has never failed to thrill with her large luscious soprano.  Last night, she made a compelling Sieglinde and we look forward to hearing her in this role in a future Ring Cycle.

First Prize winner tenor Noah Baetge was equally compelling as the Italian Singer who performs at the Marschallin's levee in Der Rosenkavalier.  Long a fan of Mr. Baetge, we were impressed by his generous Italianate sound and diction.  Yet more delicious Italian (yes, when it SOUNDS good, it TASTES good!) came from tenor Michele Angelini, also a First Prize winner, who cut a princely figure in "Si, ritrovarla, io giuro" from Rossini's La Cenerentola.  We especially appreciated the expressive way he used the fioritura in the cabaletta.

Second prize winners were also outstanding.  Soprano Audrey Luna gave Gilda her all in "Caro nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto.  There were some completely thrilling moments when she easily reached her brilliant top notes, not to mention her liquid trill.  Soprano Danielle Pastin was perfectly suited to the emotional "Stridono Lassu" from Leoncavallo's  Pagliacci and gave us a deep appreciation of Nedda's personality.

Baritone Steven Labrie sang "Silvio's Aria" with a great deal of persuasion and lovely phrasing but a rather covered sound.  We wanted to feed him some pasta with lots of garlic!  Tenor Kevin Ray sang one of our favorite Wagnerian arias from Act I of Die Walküre, "Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater".  When Mr. Ray let loose with his "Wälse, Wälse" we had goosebumps.

Countertenor Andrey Nemzer sang "Al lampo dell'armi" from Giulio Cesare in fine Handelian style and soprano Jacqueline Echols sang Pamina's aria "Ach ich fühl's" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.  She has a lovely bright sound and needs only to relax a bit so that the aria feels more spontaneous.  Bass-baritone Kyle Albertson was convincing with "Dans les rôles d'amoureux langoureux" from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman.  He has some wonderfully resonant low notes and employed appropriate gestures.

Arlene Schrut did yeoman's duty at the piano and matched herself well to each singer.  We were so grateful for the opportunity to hear all these talented voices and would have happily sat still for the other 44 winners of the Gerda Lissner Foundation's 2012 International Vocal Competition.

(c) meche kroop

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