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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Eric Malson and Joo Won Kang

We confess to being overwhelmed with the wealth of vocal talent in New York City.  Sometimes a young artist has something special that sets him or her apart.  In the case of baritone Joo Won Kang it is the way he sings from the heart.  There is never a shadow of doubt that his thoughts connect deeply with the text and his body, with the music.  We don't mean that he gesticulates wildly or dances about the stage; on the contrary, he exhibits an economy of movement.  But one does get the impression that he is inhabiting the song physically.

His recital last night at The National Opera Center was the first of this season's Emerging Artist Recital Series and coincided with Opera America's second anniversary--a fitting celebration indeed!

Mr. Kang is the McCammon Voice Competition Winner of the year and comes to us from the Fort Worth Opera and the Opera Guild of Fort Worth. Notable to us New Yorkers is the fact that he received his Master's Degree from the Manhattan School of Music; several faculty members were in attendance to cheer him on.

Mr. Kang has a strong but mellow baritone, rich and sweet like a wonderful cup of coffee.  He uses it wisely with fine technique of which the listener is made unaware.  He sang in German, English, French, Korean, Italian and Spanish--all with fine diction.

He opened his program with Beethoven's "Adelaide", a song that disproves the commonplace remark that Beethoven was not a melodist.  Such a charming song!  His "purpurblättchen" gave us a nearly synesthetic experience; he is a master of word coloring.

"Pierrot's Tanzlied" from Korngold's Die tote Stadt showed off Mr. Kang's gorgeous legato (how rare in German!) and was filled with longing.

Gerald Finzi's Let Us Garlands Bring sets Shakespeare's texts to some quite lovely music and expresses many moods, all of which Mr. Kang captured--the morbidity of "Come away, death", the fatalism of "Fear no more the heat o' the sun, and the frisky joy of "O mistress mine" during which Mr. Kang's excellent piano partner Eric Malson let loose with some fine pianism.

With fine French style, Mr. Kang performed Poulenc's Chansons Gaillardes.  Perhaps, however, it was the three Korean songs which touched him (and therefore us) most deeply, especially the last one with its deeply felt homesickness.

To cap the evening, Mr. Kang sang one of our very favorite baritone arias "Di Provenza il mar" (from Verdi's La Traviata) in which Germont père tries to manipulate his wayward son into giving up his scandalous affair with Violetta and return to the family fold.

But there was more to come as Mr. Kang generously offered two encores, one prepared and one more that the wildly enthusiastic audience demanded.  We were overjoyed to hear some Spanish--"Amor, vida de mi vida" from the zarzuela Maravilla composed by Federico Moreno Torroba.  Now we yearn for the entire zarzuela!

"Some Enchanted Evening" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific ended the recital and the title could not have been a better description of our evening.

© meche kroop

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