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.

Monday, April 22, 2013


Takaoki Onishi, Dimitri Dover, Raquel Gonzalez, Mary Feminear, Theo Hoffman
Those of you who have been attending the Schubert&Co. recital series will recognize some of the outstanding participants in the photo.  But, what's this?  A new face?  A new voice?  Co-Artistic Directors Jonathan Ware and Lachlan Glen are at the forefront of discovering new talent and last night we had the privilege of hearing baritone Theo Hoffman in his Schubert&Co. premiere. 

Mr. Hoffman is but a freshman at Juilliard but already shows a great deal of promise.  His instrument is fresh and flexible; his technique is outstanding.  But let's take a look at the artistry.  He opened last night's program with "Der Schäfer und der Reiter"; he used his sweet light baritone when singing the invitation by the light-hearted shepherd such that we heard a tenorial quality, but when the gloomy warrior replied, Mr. Hoffman darkened his tone.  We are a sucker for that sort of dramatic contrast and commitment to the text.

In another set of songs "Don Gayseros I, II and III, D.93", we heard what amounted to one long story of a Spanish aristocrat who is courted by a strange knight.  She becomes suspicious of him when he fails to partake of her Catholic rituals and he identifies himself as a Moorish king and abducts her.  He is slain by two mercenaries and she spends the rest of her life i  mourning and prayer.  A sad tale, well told by poet Friedrich La Motte-Fouque, and well sung by Mr. Hoffman, a natural storyteller. 

Prize-winning baritoneTakaoki Onishi has a very different sort of baritone, a large sound with a finely grained vibrato that delights the ear; he has never failed to thrill us with his performances.  He sang songs of futile love ("Vergebliche Liebe" and "Hippolits Lied") and several songs referencing nature.  We loved his control of dynamics and phrasing.

Two of our favorite sopranos were on the program as well.  Raquel Gonzalez sang "Der Jüngling auf dem Hügel" with great attention to dynamics and mood.  "Abschied, D.829" was done most artistically in sprechstimme, with the lyricism occurring in the piano, performed by the always impressive Dimitri Dover who is unfailingly supportive of the singer.

Soprano Mary Feminear closed the program with the one familiar song on the evening's program--"Frühlingsglaube".  We confess to humming it all night long; it's just that kind of song!  But we most enjoyed Ms. Feminear's bright sound in the light-hearted and frisky "Hänflings Liebeswerbung" about a lovesick linnet.

There are only a couple more recitals left to finish with Schubert's massive output of over 600 songs.  You would be well-advised to get on the bandwagon before it is too late!

© meche kroop

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