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, January 16, 2014


Mary Feminear reclining atop Joseph Eletto, Benjamin Lund, James Edgar Knight and Alex McKissick (photo by Michael DiVito)
Put together writer P. G. Wodehouse's witty words, composer Jerome Kern's elegant music , pianist and raconteur Steven Blier's narrative gems, and seven singers from Juilliard and what do you get?  Transatlantic champagne, that's what you get!  It was an effervescent New York Festival of Song evening at Juilliard's Peter Jay Sharp Theater-- "The Land Where the Good Songs Go" and the audience lapped it up like thirsty puppies.

Sopranos Mary Feminear and Raquel Gonz├ílez were joined onstage by mezzo Hannah McDemott, tenors James Edgar Knight and Alex McKissick and baritones Joseph Eletto and Benjamin Lund.  What fun to hear these operatic voices try their wings at something new.  There is not only depth but breadth in Juilliard's Vocal Arts Program

The show was directed by Mary Birnbaum who, we surmise, was responsible for the clever choreography and hilarious hijinks onstage.  Hal Cazalet, great-grandson of Mr. Wodehouse, was onboard for coaching and Greg Utzig contributed some string sorcery by way of guitar, banjo, mandolin and ukulele.

Some solos were true standouts:  Mr. Eletto's "My Castle in the Air" from Miss Springtime, accompanied by some delicate filigree by Mr. Blier on the piano; Ms. Gonzalez' singing the original "Bill" from "Oh, Lady, Lady"  (this lighthearted version later altered and darkened by Oscar Hammerstein II for Showboat);  Mr. Knight's hilarious "Napoleon" from Have a Heart, and Mr. Lund's "The Land Where the Good Songs Go" from Oh Boy! and recycled for Miss 1917.

Our favorite duets were Ms. Feminear and Mr. Eletto's performance of "Tell Me All Your Troubles Cutie" from Miss 1917, "We're Crooks" from the same musical performed  by Mr. McKissick and Mr. Lund, and the humorous "You Never Knew About Me" from Oh Boy! performed by Ms. McDermott and Mr. Knight.

Mr. Wodehouse also wrote with Cole Porter and the ensemble performed their "You're the Top" from Anything Goes.  He also wrote with George Gershwin and as encore the ensemble performed "Oh Gee, Oh Joy" from Rosalie.

Mr. Wodehouse's fame as a writer of songs that have endured for nearly a century was eclipsed by his Bertie and Jeeves books.  What a gift Mr. Blier & Company have given us by resurrecting these gems.

© meche kroop

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