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, June 25, 2015


Brandie Sutton and Reri Grist 

Marisan Corsino and Reri Grist

Renowned soprano and esteemed teacher Reri Grist was introduced by Martina Arroyo as a friend of fifty years duration, an announcement that evoked torrents of applause from the audience-- eager to hear the divine Ms. Grist coach young singers--part of the Prelude to Performance program.

We have previously noted that each master teacher seems to focus on one thing above all others and Ms. Grist's focus was largely on a forward sound placement. Each of the four students in her master class benefited by bringing the voice up and forward and out of the throat. This was particularly valuable in descending vocal lines.

If you love Puccini's Madama Butterfly as much as we do, you will not want to miss soprano Brandie Sutton's performance as Cio-Cio San on July 9th and 11th at Hunter College. Her glorious instrument soared in the final act aria "Che tua madre" and needed only a few hints from Ms. Grist--hints that made all the difference. In this case, Ms. Grist asked Ms. Sutton to use the initial consonant to help project the "ah" sound into the mask, achieving a rounder sound. A gentle boost from the diaphragm was also helpful.

Donizetti's Fille du Regiment will be performed on July 10th and 12th (matinĂ©e) and soprano Claire Coolen will be covering the role of Marie.  We never wish ill on a performer but if Ms. Coolen manages to sing one of the performances we would be thrilled to hear her. She sang "Chacun le sait" with panache and spunk and brilliant tone.  She was coached to take her time between phrases. 

Tenor Jon Jurgens gave full voice to "Addio fiorito asil", Lt. Pinkerton's final act aria from Madama Butterfly, a role he is covering.  He was coached to "cool it" in Ms. Grist's well-chosen phrase--to save his voice and not push.  Our own thoughts were along the same lines. We wanted him to start more gently and build to a climax when he realizes how vilely he has behaved toward Butterfly. Using his diaphragm helped him to get up and out of his throat.

Mezzo-soprano Marisan Corsino, the Suzuki cover, sang "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. At first, she delivered it to the audience and Ms. Grist coached her to pretend she was singing it to her image in the mirror, which made a world of difference. Moving around the stage also helped to eliminate the presentational quality. Another great suggestion was to achieve more variety when a phrase is repeated several times. A bit of playfulness with the rhythm added still more to the performance.

Soprano Maria Brea, who is cast as Marie on July 10th and 12th sang "Par le rang et par l'opulence" from Act II of Fille du Regiment. Ms. Grist worked with her on character interpretation and when the aria was performed with purity and simplicity it became not just a beautiful tone but a meaningful portrayal.

Tenor Alexander Wook Lee, who will be singing Goro in Madama Butterfly, did not need any help in the acting department. He sang Beppe's serenade (as Arlecchino) to Nedda (as Columbina) from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, with an abundance of humor and personality. He received good coaching from Ms. Grist on increasing his support on the high notes, getting the song up and out of his throat. The tips on vowel modification were also helpful.

Ms. Grist taught with warmth, generosity, and humor. Accompanist Ed Bak did the usual fine job of supporting each singer. We noticed he has a special affinity for Puccini.

The prolonged period of individualized and group coaching ensures that the performances of these two beloved operas are guaranteed to delight the audience as they do every summer. We urge you to get your tickets quickly before they are all gone.

(c) meche kroop

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