We have enjoyed Maestra Eve Queler's conducting of the Opera Orchestra of New York for more years than we can count--perhaps more for the opportunity to hear singers we don't always get to hear than to hear scores belonging to the same category. Today we happily listened to seven emerging artists that she had cast in smaller roles last season, but we had the pleasure of hearing them perform as the stars they are meant to be, singing arias we know and love, accompanied by Ms. Queler herself on the piano as well as by Douglas Martin.
Each of these fine artists has been making a name for him or herself singing important roles in some fine companies and winning prestigious prizes. It appears difficult for such gifted singers to get cast in major roles at the Met and we can only hope that someone from that august institution was in the audience today to be as impressed as we were.
What a banner year this is for soprano Megan Hart who makes us feel fortunate for having heard her three times already. Her sensational coloratura in "Caro Nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto and in "Regnava nel silencio" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor were well complimented by her duet with baritone Steven LaBrie in the "Silvio/Nedda duet" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and the "Parigi o cara" from Verdi's La Traviata, sung with tenor Kevin Ray. Not only did she exhibit different vocal colors for the different characters but showed fine dramatic skills. As Gilda, she totally convinced as a young innocent in the thrall of infatuation. As Lucia, she managed to foreshadow the heroine's mental fragility.
Mezzo Jennifer Feinstein impressed us with the passionate "Wie du warst!" from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. This is a sizable voice that still manages to sound like young Octavian, as it should. She sang "Les Larmes" from Massenet's Werther accompanied not only by the piano but by Kevin Ray's saxophone. "Casta Diva" from Bellini's Norma was performed by soprano Maria D'Amato with long melting phrases.
When tenor Kevin Ray was not playing the saxophone, he gave us a healthy dose of German, first in the moody "Durch die Wälder" from Weber's Die Freischütz and "Winterstürme" from Wagner's Die Walküre. We heard him pull the sword from the tree just recently at the Gerda Lissner award recital and have decided he will make an excellent Siegmund.
We were likewise delighted to have another hearing of baritone Steven LaBrie whom we suspect of having been hard at work on his Italian which came across just fine in his "Largo al Factotum" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. "Ya vas lyublyu" from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame showed another side of this versatile artist, as did his lovely French in "Vision Fugitive" from Massenet's Herodiade. Tenor Samuel Levine presented "Dies Bildnis" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and "Fra poco a me" from Lucia di Lammermoor.
Saving the best for last, powerful baritone Ricardo Rivera projected a profoundly protective image in "Avant de quitter ces lieux" from Gounod's Faust and an even more profoundly self-absorbed one as Escamillo in the "Toreador Song" from Bizet's Carmen. Having seen some rather weak Escamillos at the Met recently, we totally relished the animal magnetism and role-appropriate arrogance that so enthralled the eponymous heroine.
This satisfying recital was a gift to New York opera lovers and we wish to thank Ms. Queler from the bottom of our heart.
(c) meche kroop