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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Front Row:  Peter Manning, Rachel O'Byrne, Dearbhla Maire Collins, Miles Mykkanen
Second Row: Avery Amereau, Rebecca Rodgers, Iain Burnside and Conor Hanratty
Third Row: Andrew Gavin, Sam Lilja, William Kelley and Angela Vallone

A stirring program outside of the usual is always welcome and last night's program at Juilliard--"Ten Thousand Miles Away"-- offered an opportunity for a trans-Atlantic collaboration between The Royal Irish Academy of Music, the Juilliard School, and The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art in Trinity College Dublin.  Students from the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at Juilliard and students from Ireland participated in the program which was conceived by Iain Burnside and directed by himself and Conor Hanratty.

Last week the program was presented at LNADA in Dublin and this week presented here.  We found it absolutely enchanting, as we did the visitors from overseas.  The program was meaningful in several ways.  For one thing, the music that was chosen came from all genres and all were treated respectfully.  This can be considered a furtherance of our awareness from last night's NYFOS recital.  The program produced the same awareness of Ireland's musical heritage as last night's program produced for Italy's.

For another thing, it made us aware that, unless we are 100% Native American, we have all had ancestors that left the security of their homelands, bid farewell to loved ones, and set out for a new country to which they were obliged to adjust.  The main difference today is that most immigrants are able to return home to see those they left behind.  At the turn of the 20th C. the voyage by ship was a long arduous one and farewells were painfully permanent.  Of course there are many plays about the immigrant experience, especially Irish plays.  Still, there is something particularly poignant and universal about music.

In this case, printed programs were withheld until after the performance ended; this was a wise decision, permitting the audience to be totally present and not busy figuring out the program.  The directors made sure that the artists moved onstage in meaningful clusters and in a manner that heightened the drama. There was even some spritely folk dancing.

There were art songs by Samuel Barber, Ben Moore, and Frank Bridge and folk songs woven together with readings from Irish writers about the immigrant experience. Actors Sam Lilja and Rachel O'Byrne handled the readings beautifully. There was love and sex and religion.  There were texts from James Joyce, of course.

Juilliard soprano Angela Vallone and Dublin soprano Rebecca Rodgers were equally lovely and Juilliard mezzo-soprano Avery Amereau showed impressive depth of color. Juilliard tenor Miles Mykkanen used his versatile tenor in a new way and shared tenorial duties with the fine Dubliner Andrew Gavin.  Both excelled in conveying the feeling tone of the songs.  The sole baritone Peter Manning more than held up his share of the music-making.

Collaborative pianists also came from both sides of the Atlantic with Dearbhla Máire Collins sharing duties with William Kelley. There was always a special lilt to the music. The program was seamless without the usual pauses for applause resulting in an intense experience of the trials and tribulations of leaving, arriving and trying to assimilate.  This program achieved what the St. Patrick's Day Parade, with all its politics of pride had failed to do for us--to give us that special Irish flavor and a deep appreciation for a special people.

We cannot help but think that there might be musical solutions to the ubiquitous misunderstandings extant among the world's cultures today.  If only!

(c) meche kroop

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