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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Rosa D'Imperio as Tosca
Alexis Cregger as Salome

Edgar Jaramillo as Edgardo
A few days in advance of Valentine's Day, impressario Scott Foreman-Orr, Artistic Director of Clef Note Productions, presented an evening of operatic arias that encompassed the many faces of love: love fulfilled, love unrequited, forbidden love, desperate love, seductive love, and foolish love.

We always enjoy programs that show off the varied talents of a wide selection of singers.  There are always a couple that stand out--those that we want to hear more of.  Sometimes we have heard them before and relish the opportunity to hear them in a different role. And sometimes we enjoy being introduced to singers that are new to us.

In the former category is up-and-coming tenor Edgar Jaramillo whose rapid rise we have witnessed for the past few years.  Mr. Jaramillo is one of those rare singers who sings from the heart and doesn't hold back. His round Italianate tone was perfect for the love duet "Verranno a te" from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, with the fine soprano Heather Kelley-Vella in the titular role.

We had never before heard him sing in French and his Don Jose was a revelation.  With the convincing Carmen of mezzo Galina Ivannikova, the pair created the final tragic scene of Bizet's masterpiece in a manner so powerful that we forgot our surroundings totally.  It was a triumph of acting that this kind sweet singer could muster such murderous rage.

As far as tenors go, we were glad to hear another one of the same ilk with a similar warmth of tone and dramatic commitment. José Heredia made a fine showing as the Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto.  It's no surprise that he could seduce Gilda with a performance like that.  His Gilda, soprano Heather Kelley-Vella, has such a sweet young sound! She was equally convincing as Gilda and as Lucia.

Mr. Heredia was just as fine portraying the victim of seduction when he became helpless in the face of Manon's wiles in the Massenet opera named for this dangerous young woman, nicely sung by soprano Rachel Hippert.

Strauss' heroines are not cut from the same cloth.  We particularly enjoyed Alexis Cregger's encore piece from Salome as she exulted over the head of Johannan.  She has a voice of great amplitude and beauty and was also a standout as the Marschallin in the final scene from Der Rosenkavalier with Page Lucky taking the role of Sophie and Leslie Middlebrook performing the role of Octavian. This is such a perfect trio with three characters each having her/his own thoughts.

Another sizable voice on the program belongs to soprano Rosa d'Imperio who impressed us with the "three questions" aria from Puccini's Turandot.  Her acting chops were evident as she performed a little later as the eponymous Tosca venting her jealousy on poor Mario, and still later as the seductive Manon in Manon Lescaut.  We don't know how Puccini's name became associated with "piccole donne". There is nothing small about any of these heroines and Ms. d'Imperio gave them each their due.

Accompanist Ming Hay Kwong shifted styles well and added something extra to the evening when he performed the challenging third movement of Beethoven's Appassionata, fingers flying over the keys.

We opera lovers must do everything we can to support the folks on the other side of the curtain who give of themselves so generously. Why not see what you can do on Indiegogo.  Here's the link.


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