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, June 13, 2013


Eric Owens and Martina Arroyo
The coaching provided to the fortunate young singers chosen for Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance Program is always of incomparable value.  Yesterday's masterclass was masterfully given by bass-baritone Eric Owens.  He has always impressed us with his glorious singing and convincing acting; but this stage animal has another side which we were thrilled to discover.  Mr. Owens is an astute but gentle teacher with amazing diagnostic skills, able to pinpoint exactly what each student in the class needed to take him/her to the next level, and then to convey the information with vast humor and support.

The two operas to be presented in July are Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore and Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann.  Baritone Carlos Saenz began with Belcore's aria; he nailed the arrogance of the character and had some fine low notes but seemed to us to be putting too much effort into his performance.  We loved the way Mr. Owens got him to ease up and sing more naturally and were thrilled by the result.  Mr. Saenz was a most receptive student and was able to retain the characterization while being less aggressive in his approach.

Tenor James Edgar Knight made a fine Nemorino and profited by the suggestion to maintain the accented syllable even when it falls on the low note right before a jump upward on the scale.  He was also instructed not to "telegraph" about Adina and Belcore's interaction but to make his part of the trio be about HIS character.  In this trio, Maggie Sczekan made a winning Adina and Jorell Williams needed only to maintain the legato feeling over the rests so that each phrase maintained the same color.

In "Una parola o Adina" Javier Bernardo was convincing and moving in his portrayal with Yunnie Park as his fine Adina.  The coaching centered on keeping the intention right through the rests, in order to bridge the divide between phrases, and on lining up the vowels.

Switching to French for the second half was a whole 'nother thing but much of the instruction was similar, except that French is sung very forward in the mouth.  Bass-baritone Eui Jin Kim made a fine villainous Lindorf but even villains must sing through and establish vibrato on each and every note.  Mr. Owens helped Mr. Kim to ground himself on the high notes.  A brief exercise of singing only the vowels helps to line them up.

A very funny rendering of "Kleinzach" was offered by tenor Joseph Michael Brent who was instructed to balance his stunning squillo with some earthiness and support.  The singer needs to let go, to guide the voice but not over-control it.  Similar instruction was given to tenor Blaise Pascal and bass-baritone Yuriy Yurchuk in their duet.

The session closed with luscious-voiced Lenora Green singing Antonia to Won Whi Choi's Hoffmann who sounded even better after he was coached to take his time and maintain more consistency in his legato.  Mr. Owens emphasized the importance of consistency and commitment at the close of the class.  It was remarkable to hear how much each singer profited by the instruction. 

We were not able to get the casting list for July's performances but, after hearing everyone sing, we decided we will be happy no matter whom we hear since all singers were topnotch.  We urge you to set aside time to attend as many performances as possible the weekend of July 11th.  You won't be disappointed!  We further urge anyone who sings or loves singing to attend the two subsequent masterclasses at Hunter College, Wednesdays at 6PM.

© meche kroop

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