|Baritone Mark Rucker
Lauren Flanigan's annual fundraiser to benefit the homeless was held Monday in its new home--the acoustically superlative St. Paul's Church on 86th and West End Ave. Admission to this star-spangled event is by donation of blanket, warm coat, groceries, or cash. Audience members are treated to one gorgeous aria after another performed by Ms. Flanigan's many friends, most of whom are stars from the Met, as is the fine coach/accompanist Kamal Khan who serves as Music Director.
As if this were not enough, the Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble, directed by Bettye Forbes, was there to raise the roof with their spirited song stylings. The audience responded to "Go Tell it on the Mountain" with rhythmic applause.
New this year was a fine group of young singers Ms. Flanigan calls The Flaniganizers, nine lovely young women, each one of whom had something special to offer, each telling about how Ms. Flanigan had helped her career before launching into her aria. They were all delightful!
Ms. Flanigan herself performed the intense scene from Act II of Puccini's Tosca, in which poor Florio Tosca must listen to poor Mario Cavaradossi (Raúl Melo) being tortured offstage while she builds up enough hate for the evil Scarpia (Louis Otey) to want to murder him. If anyone can do "intense" better than Ms. Flanigan, we'd like to hear about it!
Mr. Melo also gave us a fine aria from Puccini's La Fanciulla del West and baritone Mark Rucker, accompanied beautifully by his wife Sadie, shone in "Nemico della patria" from Andrea Chénier, showing every ounce of disdain for his ironic sentence.
There was yet more Puccini as soprano Jasmine Muhammad sang "Donde lieta usci" from La Bohème.
Among so many splendid performances we also enjoyed tenor Brian Anderson's performance of "De' miei bollenti spiriti" from Verdi's La Traviata and tenor Ryan MacPherson's "Parmi veder le lagrime" from Verdi's Rigoletto.
Ms. Flanigan was the welcoming host for the evening's entertainment and Stewart Desmond, Executive Director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, spoke briefly but movingly of his campaign's successes. In a remarkable move for a food pantry, the hungry get to enter this pantry and select the foods they like, as if they were in a grocery store.
We couldn't help thinking that Mayor DiBlasio would have done better to hire Mr. Desmond as consultant instead of paying a quarter of a million dollars to the fella that wasn't doing his job in the first place. We'll put our faith in the private sector any day of the week!
(c) meche kroop