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.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Lindemann Young Artist Development Program Concert at The Juilliard School
Could an evening have been more bubbly, more sparkling?  No way. Our admiration and affection for the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program is no secret.  Although Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, introduced the young artists on last night's program as "works in progress", we beg to differ. This is a group of extremely talented and highly trained artists; any opera house would be honored to have them onstage.  Indeed they have already sung in many venues around the world.  If they lack anything it is "name recognition" and we all know that big names sell tickets. Do we mean that there is no room for growth?  Of course not!  Artists should always keep growing and expanding.

Last night's program was well designed and gave the Patrons of The Met an opportunity to see these young artists in a varied program of scenes which were presented in an interesting format with each scene blending seamlessly with the one before and after.  The opening scene was from Mozart's La Clemenza Di Tito, conducted by Daniel Stewart and directed by Stephen Wadsworth.  Soprano Mary-Jane Lee was perfect as the seductive and manipulative Vitellia with mezzo Cecelia Hall in the pants role of Sesto, the object of her manipulations.  The duet between the two was marked by gorgeous harmonies; the fioritura was perfect.  Mezzo Samantha Hankey was equally effective as Annio.  Ekaterina Deleu accompanied the recitativo on the harpsichord and Nimrod David Pfeffer gave excellent support on the piano.

Ms. Hall remained onstage for the next scene from Handel's Orlando in which she sang the role of the eponymous hero.  The bass role of Zoroastro the Magician was magnificently handled by Brandon Cedel singing "Sorge infausta una procella" with Bryan Wagorn doing his customary fine work on the piano.  And how we enjoyed Benjamin Bliss' sweet tenor in "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte!

Two bel canto scenes followed.  Ms. Hall reappeared, this time in a stylish gown, as Rosina in Rossini's Il Barbiere Di Siviglia.  David Paul directed this very funny scene in which Rosina and Figaro get to demonstrate the many facets of their relationship.  Baritone Yunpeng Wang made a marvelously funny and sly Figaro drawing laughs from the audience.  Mr. Stewart conducted and Mr. Pfeffer accompanied.

In a scene from Donizetti's Don Pasquale, bass Ryan Speedo Green made a sympathetic titular character while baritone Alexey Lavrov performed the role of the wily Dr. Malatesta.  Both men demonstrated superlative flexibility in the patter verses.  The scene was well directed by Mr. Wadsworth and finely conducted by Mr. Stewart.  Ms. Deleu accompanied effectively.

Ms. Hall returned for two stunning arias sung in fine French.  She was saucy and sultry as Elle in Messager's "J'ai deux amants" from L'Amour Masqué and convincingly angry as Concepción in Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole.  Mary Birnbaum directed both scenes and the amazing Lachlan Glen accompanied, as they did in Giordano's Andrea Chénier which followed.  The role of Carlo Gérard gave Mr. Wang an opportunity to show his serious side in this powerful deeply felt performance.  Not only can he be hilarious but he can be lyrically expressive.

It's been quite a while since we've heard Prince Andrei's philosophical musings in Prokofiev's War and Peace and we delighted in Alexey Lavrov's moving exploration of the Russian soul with Ms. Deleu on the piano.

Two scenes from Verdi operas followed.  Simon Boccanegra is one of our favorites and we thoroughly enjoyed the highly dramatic scene in which Boccanegra's nemesis Paolo (Mr. Green) produces great anguish in Gabriele Adorno (the wonderful tenor Mario Chang) by accusing the latter's lover Amelia (Ms. Lee) of cheating.  What tension they created!  Mr. Paul directed this intense scene and Mr. Glen kept the tension going in the piano.  Mr. Wadsworth directed the next scene from Ernani, another dramatically intense one; Mr. Green portrayed the unloved De Silva with Ms. Lee as his unloving fiancée.  Her two suitors in this scene of confrontation were excellently played by Mr. Chang as Ernani and Mr. Lavrov as the Emperor of Spain.

Tenor Anthony Kalil then sang one of the best tenor arias written by Puccini--"E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca.  Mr. Kalil sang it with heartbreaking passion and in true Italianate style. One could fairly smell the garlic!  Following that was the comic sextet from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro in which Figaro discovers his parentage.  We enjoyed hearing Mr. Glen on the harpsichord as he accompanied Ms. Hankey and Mr. Green as the newly discovered parents, Mr. Wang as the foiled Count Almaviva, the adorable Ying Fang as the baffled Susanna, Brandon Cedel as Figaro himself, and a very funny Mr. Bliss as the notary Don Curzio.  Mary Birnbaum directed with a sure hand and Mr. Stewart conducted the  ensemble.

The final scene was from Haydn's L'Incontro Improvviso, an opera heretofore unknown to us.  Listening to the gorgeous trio of blended voices (Ms. Fang as the Princess of Persia with Ms. Lee and Ms. Hall as her two best friends) we were made to want more of this opera.

We must not fail to mention the presentation of a scene from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the scene in which both men have been mistakenly enchanted to desire the formerly rejected Helena and to reject Hermia.  No, there was no music.  We think we know why it was included.  It answered our mental question "How did these singers get to be such good actors?"  We imagine that they get superb instruction in the dramatic arts as part of the curriculum.  The scene was directed by Stephen Wadsworth and performed by Ms. Lee, Ms. Fang, Mr. Bliss and Mr. Cedel.

After the recital the audience joined the artists for champagne which perfectly matched the effervescence of the evening.

© meche kroop

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