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, April 5, 2014


Peter Dugan and Kara Sainz
Lovely mezzo-soprano Kara Sainz gave an impressive graduation recital last night at Juilliard.  She impressed with her poise onstage, her musicality and her willingness to take risks.

She addressed the audience in a most engaging and sincere way and it was easy to see that her love for Brahms was genuine.  Her choices of "Wie melodien zieht es", "Meine liebe ist grün, and "Die Mainacht" suited her voice perfectly and charmed the ear with melody.  Ms. Sainz has an enviable upper register with a soprano-y sound.  We loved her joy in singing these old chestnuts with a fresh youthful sound and her collaborative pianist Peter Dugan went right along with her.

Ms. Sainz shared with the audience her pleasure in reprising her role as Cherubino in Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro".  We were there for her performance and were just as delighted to hear her sing it again as she was in performing it.  All that onstage joy was contagious!

Four charming little gems of Gabriel Fauré were performed; our favorites were the jolly "Mandoline" in which she painted a lovely picture of serenaders of bygone days and the more serious "Les berceaux" which was sung with great soul.  She told the audience that this was the first song she learned in French; this reinforced the observation that this recital was a most personal one for her.

And now we come to the risk-taking part.  Pianist Peter Dugan, whom we have commended for his musicianship, has a brother named Leonardo who is a composer.  Last night Ms. Sainz and Peter Dugan premiered a work of Leonardo Dugan's written especially for this recital entitled "The Life and Death of Joan of Arc".

Readers will recall how distasteful we find most contemporary music.  Let us reassure you straightaway that this work is not in that category.  Not at all.  Mr. Dugan (Leonardo) wrote his own text and happily it rhymes.  The piano part is jazz-inflected and relies on a repeated motif which helps the work achieve unity.  The vocal writing is melodic and accessible.

It is written in four parts.  From the outset, Saint Joan is depicted as ambivalent--torn between trying to rescue her homeland from English domination and her hatred of bloodshed.  At the end she is torn between faith and despair that her god has forsaken her.

In this work, the register is a lower one and Ms. Sainz gave a highly dramatic and moving delivery.  This was a risk that paid off in success for her and for The Brothers Dugan, not to mention the audience and for ourselves who now feel more inclined to give contemporary composers a chance.

© meche kroop

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