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.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Do we take for granted what is in our own backyard?  We were asking ourselves that question during last night's recital by the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.  Here in New York the six gifted artists we heard are known as "young artists" or "emerging artists".  If we lived in any other city in the United States or any European City, they would be (and actually are) considered superstars of the opera stage.  They often assume relatively small roles on the stage of The Metropolitan Opera but are uniformly capable of assuming lead roles in other companies.

Take for example tenor Mario Chang who will sing the Italian Tenor in Der Rosenkavalier next season at the Met but who just performed Nemorino abroad.  Last night we enjoyed his full-throated round Italianate voice, his melting messa di voce and melismatic grace in five Venetian songs by Reynaldo Hahn, accompanied by equally talented Alexandra Naumenko.  His use of the music stand, however, diminished his connection with the audience; we were far more thrilled at the end of the recital when he sang Turina's Poema en forma canciones without the music stand and we could fully appreciate his connection.  It also gave Ms. Naumenko an opportunity to show her stuff in the "Dedicatoria".  

Let us then consider Russian baritone Alexey Lavrov who is only in his first year at Lindemann and will sing some small roles at the Met this season but has sung the title role in Eugene Onegin at the Rheinsberg Festival in Germany.  Mr. Lavrov has a mature sound and an uncanny gift for choosing a variety of songs that showed off his dramatic skills.  In "Chi sprezzando" from Händel's The Passion he was stiff and harsh as the text demands.  In "Deh vieni alla finestra" from Mozart's Don Giovanni he was louche, lounging against the piano and smirking.  His partnership with collaborative pianist Bryan Wagorn is a match made in vocal heaven.  Rimsky-Korsakov's "Redejet oblakov", a setting of poetry by Pushkin, thrilled us with its passion, Mr. Lavrov's matched by Mr. Wagorn's. In Georgy Sviridov's "Oh, my homeland" he was absolutely heroic.  In "An eine Äolsharfe" we heard him caress each vowel without shortchanging the consonants.  The only other singer we know who can perform this magic is Jonas Kaufmann.

Also a yearling, tenor Andrew Stenson has sung Orphée at the Seattle Opera, amongst other roles.  Last night, accompanied by the brilliant Nimrod Pfeffer, he performed Beethoven's "Adelaide" with such connection to the material that we could visualize all the elements of nature described therein.  Just watching and listening, one could tell that Mr. Stenson was seeing them as well.   In Schubert's "Epistel 'An Herrn Josef von Spaun'" Mr. Pfeffer's control over dynamics and rhythmic thrust impressed us greatly, as did his fleet fingering in the Liszt.  It was in the Liszt Tre Sonetti di Petrarca that Mr. Stenson loosened his grip on the piano and stepped forward, giving himself a major step forward in engaging the audience.

What great fortune to hear these six talented artists right here in our own backyard!

(c) meche kroop

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