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, August 31, 2015


Tziporah Miriam Halperin and Rachel Hippert

Finally our passion for Spanish music has been sated, thanks to Scott Foreman-Orr's Clef Note Productions and Project 142.  Not only did we hear some favorites from the world of zarzuela but had the thrill of hearing an aria from a contemporary opera that is (we couldn't believe our ears!) actually MELODIC. 

Salvadoran Luis Diaz Hérodier composed El Mozote in 2006 to a libretto by his sister, the famous poet Claudia Hérodier, dealing with the country's civil war in the early 1980's. The tender aria "Y yo que haré sin vos, Rufina" was beautifully interpreted by the sweet-voiced tenor Oswaldo Iraheta, a fellow Salvadoran, if we are not mistaken. Perhaps the future of opera lies in El Salvador!  

Two other Latin American tenors captivated the capacity audience with their passionate delivery. We particularly enjoyed José Heredia's nicely modulated delivery of Augustin Lara's "Granada".  This popular song has been sung in many languages but there's nothing like the real thing.

The more passionate "No puede ser" from Pablo Sorozábal's 1936 zarzuela La Taberna del puerto is another favorite of ours and full-voiced tenor Hamid Rodriguez poured a full measure of Latin passion into it, nicely varying the dynamics and volume to hold our interest.

Although the women on the program were not Latin American, they made an equally fine impression. The harmonies of Maria Malibran's "Le prisonnier" were effectively captured by soprano Rachel Hippert and mezzo-soprano Tziporah Miriam Halperin as they sang about the beauties of nature in fine French. The Spanish Malibran, a famous 19th c. bel canto singer, obviously knew how to write for the voice.  Perhaps what we need today are songs written by singers!

These two women are so in tune with one another! They thrilled us with "Séparation", Pauline Viardot's adaptation for voice of "Mazurka #6" by Chopin. Fine French diction is difficult to find but they nailed it. 

Ms. Hippert shared a convincing duet with Mr.  Heredia--"El duo de la Africana" by Manuel Caballero. This zarzuela was a satire of Meyerbeer's opera L'Africaine. Equally convincing was the final scene of Bizet's Carmen, sung by mezzo-soprano Galina Ivannikova and Mr. Rodriguez.

We heard two versions of "Les Filles de Cadix", one by Leo Delibes which gave Ms. Hippert the opportunity to exhibit a flirtatious personality; the other setting by Pauline Viardot, sung by mezzo-soprano Anna Tonno, who did her best to convey the same flirtatiousness, hampered by being "on the book".

This brings us to the marvelous soprano Alexis Cregger, whose use of the music stand detracted from her ability to connect with the audience. She clearly connected with the material and has a marvelous instrument; there must have been a compelling reason for her not to have memorized her selections but we sadly cannot approve. Attending a vocal recital involves a reciprocal relation between artist and audience. Anything that interferes with this connection is a distraction.

This was particularly unfortunate because her selections were among the choicest on the program: Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona's gorgeous "Escucha al Ruiseñor" and Heitor Villalobos' thrilling "Bachianas #5".

Soprano Rosa d'Imperio showed excellence in performance of an aria from Lecuona's tragedy "Maria la O". We also enjoyed her in an intensely dramatic duet with Mr. Rodriguez "Amor mi raza sabe conquistar" from the 1924 zarzuela Leyenda del Beso by Reveriano Soutullo.

Accompaniment by Winston Vogel fell short. He was mainly focused on the score and neglected to "breathe with" the singers.

We will close with an unsettling fact previously unknown by us: Georges Bizet's "Habanera" from Carmen first saw light of day as Sebastian Yradier's "El Arreglito"!  Bizet claimed that he thought it was a folk song that he arranged.  Uh-oh!  Well, that wouldn't be the first and only example of musical plagiarism. Last night Ms. Halperin sang it and we enjoyed it, no matter who wrote it!.

(c) meche kroop

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