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, October 7, 2014


Teresa Tièschky and Matthias Winckhler
On occasion of the celebration of "Da Ponte Day", the Austrian Cultural Forum presented a fine recital in their acoustically perfect small hall last night.  With impeccable scholarship, pianist Wolfgang Brunner assembled a varied program of piano music alternating with arias and duets by Mozart for which Da Ponte wrote the libretti. Two excellent young singers from the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg were brought over to perform and we are delighted to report that they did justice to Mozart's music and Da Ponte's texts.

We have written several times about the challenges of singing lieder in a large hall--especially the challenge of creating intimacy.  In this case we had the opposite situation, one of scaling back large operatic arias and duets to suit a small hall.  This, the two talented young German singers accomplished without sacrificing the grandeur. Mozart must be "in the blood" so to speak.

Selections from Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così Fan Tutte were presented--all the highlights we have come to know and love. Soprano Teresa Tièschky has the lovely light coloratura that we enjoy hearing and just the right personality for Susanna.  She introduced us to an aria we had never before heard which had been specially written for Adriana del Bene detta la Ferrarese for the 1789 revival of the opera.  The recitativo proceeded as expected but then...big surprise...no "Deh, vieni non tardar" but "Al desio di chi t'adora".  We'd love to hear it again!

Miss T. was just as charming as Despina and Zerlina and, in fact, sang another piece with which we were unfamiliar.  "Restate quà...Per queste tue manine", a duet with Leporello in which she ties him up! This duet was written for the first performance of Don Giovanni in Vienna in 1788. The part of Leporello was sung by Matthias Winckhler who has a graceful lyric baritone that falls gently on the ear.

Mr. Winckhler (untied) was even more impressive as Don Giovanni in the lovely serenade "Deh vieni alla finestra"; his duet with Ms. T. "La ci darem la mano" was enacted so well that the audience demanded an encore and we got to hear it again.  Significantly, the two young artists put a slightly different spin on it the second time which lent a sense of spontaneity that we genuinely appreciated.

Mr. W.'s flexibility of characterization was evidenced when he sang "Hai già vinta la causa!".  Perhaps Il Conte and Don Giovanni are both arrogant men but he showed us two different characters. His Guglielmo was an interesting third characterization.

All of this wonderful singing alternated with some rarely heard piano pieces, perfectly performed by Wolfgang Brunner.  So many composers wrote variations based on Mozart's operatic melodies, including his own son Franz Xaver Mozart who was only 14 years old when he tackled the minuet from Don Giovanni.  Sadly his father died when he was a baby but he surely inherited his father's genes.

The other composers we heard who had tackled such variations included Johann Baptist Cramer, Joseph Woelfl and Camille Pleyel (son of Ignaz).  All stood tall on the shoulders of the giant--Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Three cheers for the artists, for the Mozarteum and for the Austrian Cultural Forum for introducing us to so many novelties and for doing such a fine job on the standard pieces.

© meche kroop

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