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.

Monday, May 4, 2015


Keith Chambers, Madison Marie McIntosh, and Alexander Charles Boyd

How do you say Marvelous Madison Marie McIntosh?  We say....MMMM!

Planet Opera is replete with light coloratura sopranos whom we enjoy but we would be hard pressed to tell one from another with our eyes closed.  Not so with Ms. McIntosh whose sound is uniquely hers, both distinctive and special. Last night's program went a long way in showing off her rare talent.

Her voice is as beautiful as her appearance with a distinct vibrato and bright shiny timbre. The first half of the program comprised Rossini and nothing but Rossini. There was a selection from his Péchés de vieillesse--"La fioraia fiorentina" in which the divine Ms. M allowed her vibrant personality to shine through as a flower seller wanting to buy bread for her poor mother. In "L'invito" from Soirées musicales, there was a nice contrast of color in the middle section.

We also heard selections from Rossini's operas. Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia is generally sung by a mezzo-soprano but this is not the first time we have heard the role sung by a soprano. "Una voce poco fa" is fertile material for fioritura to express character and Ms. M. did not disappoint. We heard some impressively elaborate embellishments and dazzling cadenze.

The fine baritone Alexander Charles Boyd served as her Figaro for the duet "Dunque io son" in which Rosina's cleverness and determination exceeded his expectations. Their respective vocal lines blended beautifully.

Rossini's final opera in Italian, the 1823 Semiramide, was the source for another aria and another duet. "Bel raggio lusinghier" was filled with joy and the duet (again with Mr. Boyd) "Se la vita ancor t'è cara" was filled with anger and spite. 

Vocal fireworks were present not only in the Rossini of the bel canto period but also in the baroque compositions of Händel. "I can conjure you fire from the heavens" was repurposed for The Enchanted Island, a pastiche produced at The Metropolitan Opera in 2011,and quite successfully so. Ariel sings this song to Prospero in Act I. Ms. M. filled the aria with her own fire and the only thing missing was clarity of diction. This is not Ms. M's fault. English just doesn't sing well, especially in the upper registers. We had no problem understanding her Italian, even at the very upper reaches.

From Semele, she sang "O sleep, why dost thou leave me?". This aria gave her the opportunity to sing a long melismatic phrase on "ah". It was gorgeous. She even embellished her embellishments.

"Hello! Oh, Margaret, it's you" from Gian Carlo Menotti's The Telephone gave her a chance to show her acting skills and to inject another note of humor into the program.

The revelation of the evening occurred when composer Theodore Christman took over the piano duties from the excellent Keith Chambers and accompanied Ms. M. in his own song cycle, a setting of poetry by Nicola Rossi Lemeni. Although reading the poetry later did not do much for us, the setting illuminated the words and the mood of the text.

Readers may have noticed how dissatisfied we have been with contemporary song and we were over the moon to find a contemporary composer who knows how to write for the voice and can write melodic phrases. Mr. Christman here favored the rhythm of the barcarolle but his "La morte di Don Giovanni" was a dirge and "Gioia conclusa" a waltz. The composition surely captured the Italian flavor and color.

Ms. M. related how she heard Mr. Christman play and wanted him to write for her. She herself chose the poetry. This was the proverbial match made in heaven. We would dearly love to hear the songs again, particularly if Ms. M. could sing them "off the book", thereby communicating with the audience in the same way she did for the remainder of the program.

Mr. Chambers not only satisfied as accompanist but had a chance to shine as a soloist in Amy Beach's Ballade, op.6. a most accessible and lovely piece. How rare it was for a woman to succeed in the music world of the Gay 90's.

As encore, Ms. M. performed Poulenc's "Air vif" from his Airs chantées. We are pleased to note that her French is just as fine as her Italian. The evening was a most satisfying one! We are looking to the future and wondering whether Ms. M. has considered Queen of the Night!

(c) meche kroop

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