For 18 years now soprano Lauren Flanigan has produced an annual Christmas concert to benefit the homeless. Recipients of the benefits are three worthy organizations: The Interfaith Assembly on Homeless and Housing, The West Side Campaign Against Hunger and New York Cares. Admission to the concert is achieved by donation of a warm coat, a warm blanket, a shopping bag filled with groceries, or $40 cash.
Entertainment is provided by stars of The Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera--all friends of Ms. Flanigan whose performances we have always loved. A typical opera star would be satisfied with a successful career, but not Ms. Flanigan! This utterly selfless and modest wonderwoman goes to great lengths to help others. She has established Music and Mentoring House in Harlem where she offers lodging, great cooking (another one of her oversize talents) and support to young artists, some of whom are visiting New York for auditions or competitions, others of whom live there for a time.
Accompanied on the piano by Kamal Khan, major artists provided nearly three hours of entertainment for the grateful audience. From Handel to Wagner, Bizet to Bernstein, all the bases were covered. Oh, did we forget to mention a surprise appearance by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players in a scene from Pirates of Penzance? And brief arias by some of the young singers Ms. Flanigan is mentoring? And some lively gospel music by the Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble who appear every year? And a powerful performance in Spanish by Ms. Flanigan-- the late Julia de Burgos, another humanitarian and poet.
The varied program was always enjoyable but allow us to mention a few personal favorites. Mezzo Eve Gigliotti sang "Cruda Sorte!" from L'Italiana in Algeri with smashing technique and an admirable evenness of tone throughout the registers. Soprano Amy Burton sang some fine French cabaret songs accompanied by her husband John Musto. Soprano Jennifer Rowley hammed it up admirably as Musetta in Puccini's La Boheme. Mezzo Vanessa Cariddi took us on a wild ride with her embellishments in "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Baritone Luthando Qave showed some fine Russian in Rachmaninoff's "Spring Waters". Tenor Brian Anderson introduced us to "Deserto in terra", an aria from Donizetti's Don Sebastian, an opera with which we were unfamiliar.
We could go on and on but hereby apologize to all the wonderful artists we must leave out for consideration of time and space. If you were fortunate enough to have attended, you probably had your favorite moments as well. And if you missed it, make sure you put it on your calendar for next year.
(c) meche kroop