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.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
|Renate Rohlfing and Julia Bullock|
The air was still. The worshippers were still. No one dared risk missing a single note of what amounted to a devout performance. Soprano Julia Bullock is nothing if not devout in her commitment to vocal artistry. It is not just the superlative soprano instrument but the fact that she serves the music and text equally, while serving up her soul from deep within. Every song is filtered through her personalized nature and made her own. Do we sound like a fan? We are in good company. There are so many of us.
Accompanied by the gentle hands of collaborative pianist Renate Rohlfing, Ms. Bullock began her program with a startling work by John Cage on prepared piano entitled "She is Asleep". The vocal sounds and the piano sounds were novel--meaningless syllables, something sounding like bird calls, all expressed with variety of color and dynamics. Who else could have sung this?
The pair of artists then shifted from this 1943 work to a 1960 cycle by Francis Poulenc entitled La courte paille, setting of texts by Maurice Carême, composed toward the end of Poulenc's life. We are not sure why the title "the short straw" was chosen. The songs refer to childhood--a tender lullaby entitled "Le sommeil", some fantasies "Quelle aventure!" and "Le carafon" (our personal favorite), and a few surrealistic pieces. All were performed with a depth of understanding that was communicated successfully to the audience.
Modest Mussorgsky's The Nursery always delights us. A good performance of these songs requires that the singer draw forth images of childhood innocence and curiosity; this, Ms. Bullock accomplished completely. Even her appearance was transformed and one could easily picture her as the child relating to her nanny, her fear of the bogeyman, her wish to hear good stories, her saying her prayers, her request for her mother's sympathy. We sat transfixed.
Songs by Samuel Barber followed with the strange "My Lizard", the accessible "The Daisies" and "Nuvoletta" from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake which seemed to be a tale of suicide obscured by wordplay. As the character leans over the "bannistars", Ms. Bullock leaned over the strings of the piano. We felt a chill.
Richard Strauss' Drei Lieder der Ophelia were movingly sung and Ms. Bullock seguéd directly into the fine spiritual Harry T. Burleigh's "Deep River" and closed with Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free".
As encore, we heard "La Conga Blicoti", popularized by Josephine Baker. It was a generous performance by a most generous artist and her fine accompanist. Bravissime!
(c) meche kroop
Friday, May 29, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
|Trixie La Fée|
|Trixie La Fée|
Monday, May 18, 2015
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Monday, May 11, 2015
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Saturday, May 9, 2015
|Kyle Erdos-Knapp and Antoni Mendezona|
|Ian McEuen, Adam Cannedy, and Cameron Smith|
|Sarah Best, Natalie Ballenger and Sarah Mossman|
Victor Herbert was a seminal figure in the world of music in the 20th c. He not only composed but also conducted, wrote lyrics and played the cello. Moreover, he founded ASCAP with John Philip Sousa. He deserves to be remembered!
The Only Girl debuted on Broadway in 1914 when Europe was at war. Escapist musical comedies were all the rage. Director Michael Phillips has adapted the work, whose original book and lyrics were by Henry Blossom, based on a Frank Mandel play Our Wives.
Possibly because costumes from 100 years ago might be too costly to construct or rent, or because the goal was to make the show more relevant, the period has been updated to the 1950's. Costume Designer Bettina Bierly has given the work a spiffy look and the set (no credit in program) looks the way one would expect a lyricist's New York apartment to look.
The plot reminds one of a showbiz comedy of days of yore. A lyricist cannot find a composer with whom to work on his next show. He hears wonderful music coming from next door and learns that it was composed by a woman. The two are wary of one another; he has contempt for women and she is feisty-- and in no way willing to be subservient. Eventually they come to appreciate each other after a showdown.
Tenor Kyle Erdos-Knapp made a fine Kim, the lyricist, especially when he sat at the piano and sang a song interpolated from Herbert's 1905 musical Miss Dolly Dollars, in which he compares women to cigars. As Ruth, the composer next door, Antoni Mendezona used her fine soprano in a winning way, making us cheer for her taming of Kim.
Auxiliary characters included Kim's friends and associates--the agent Martin who seems not to get the jokes, portrayed by tenor Ian McEuen; the philandering producer Blake, portrayed by baritone Adam Cannedy; and scenic designer Andrew, portrayed by tenor Cameron Smith. Their trio "When You're Wearing the Ball and Chain" was amusing.
On the female side we had the very funny loud-mouth Patsy (soprano Natalie Ballenger), the sardonic chorine Jane (mezzo Sarah Best) and aspiring actress Renée (soprano Sarah Mossman). The three women delighted us with "Why Should We Stay at Home and Sew". All the voices were good and the roles well-cast. Happily, they were unamplified.
Gerald Steichen conducted from the keyboard and the chamber orchestra comprised a string quartet, augmented by bass, percussion, flute, clarinet, oboe and French horn. They handled the spritely tunes with panache.
LOONY fortunately records their productions, with a little help from their friends. So, if you can't snag a ticket for today's two performances (2:00 and 7:30) you may be able to get a CD in the future.
(c) meche kroop