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, August 17, 2013


A supremely talented group of eight apprentices from the Santa Fe Opera presented a parade of popular arias as a summer community concert at First Presbyterian Church. The 43 apprentices were chosen from 450 applicants and one can only conclude that the young singers who made the cut were chosen for their vocal artistry combined with dramatic skills and an ability to communicate with the audience. Heard at the opera house in small roles and in the chorus, these artists are also given a chance to shine at various events, chief among which are the two Sunday Apprentice Recitals. But this afternoon's recital was a special treat, allowing the listener to get up close and personal. The parade of performances was led by soprano Lacy Sauter who sang Mozart's "Alleluia" in a pure bright soprano with excellent mastery of the fioritura. Her upper register manifested a large open feeling and the "B" section an effective change of color and mood. Tenor Jonathan Blalock followed with the serenade "Ecco ridente in cielo" from Rossini's Barber of Seville. His pleasing voice was augmented by a lot of heart and soul which is a basic minimum requirement if you want a lady to descend from her balcony! Mezzo Sarah Mesko sang "Oh, dischiuso e il firmamento!" from Verdi's Nabucco with a rich chocolatey sound. Mezzo Samantha Korbey has a big ringing sound and gave an excellent performance of "Sein wir wieder gut" from Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, marred only slightly by some very aggressive piano playing by accompanist Kirt Pavitt. Since he supported the singers well in every other case, one can only assume that he was carried away by Strauss' luscious music. Soprano Hailey Clark invested "Che il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La Rondine with a great deal of charm and employed her big ringing upper register to fine effect. Bringing down the house (the church, actually) was Ricardo Rivera's swaggering Escamillo from Bizet's Carmen. His sizable baritone was used with confidence and authority; his manner was hypnotic and it was easy to understand how he lured Carmen away from Don Jose. Tenor Yoni Rose has a lovely color to his voice and sang "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Boheme with fine legato phrasing, closing with a distinctive diminuendo. We particularly enjoyed the duet "Belle nuit, o nuit d'amour" from Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, sung by Hailey Clark and Sarah Mesko; the voices blended beautifully. Similarly, the quartet from Act III of Verdi's Rigoletto was stirringly sung by Ms. Korbey, Ms. Sauter, Mr. Rose and Mr. Rivera. Flutist Daniel James provided an instrumental interlude with the gently melodic "Pastorale" by Germaine Tailleferre. The program ended with baritone Jared Bybee singing The Lord's Prayer with deeply felt sentiment and gorgeous phrasing. AND--"America" sung by the entire ensemble. One could not have imagined a more fulfilling recital! Bravi tutti!

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