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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Olivia Betzen and Sean Kroll

What an interesting concept to program a season whose theme was inspired by the writings of Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais! The excellent Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble generally comes up with a highly worthwhile summer season. The program is always a win-win situation. 

Young singers in the early stages of their careers get everything they need to advance to the next level.  They profit by coaching and collaboration, intense role preparation involving not only singing but dramatics, stage deportment, diction, and whatever else it takes to bridge the gap between academic training and flourishing career. All at no charge!

But the audience benefits as well.  One can purchase low-priced tickets and enjoy high-value entertainment.  Productions are often conceived with originality and flair. Take, for example, last nights concert which celebrated the characters created by Beaumarchais. For the rest of this week, we will be reviewing Paisiello's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, and Titus' Rosina. Something familiar, something unfamiliar, and something treasured since we started attending opera.

But the scenes and arias presented last night will not be heard again this season because they were selected to highlight the characters rather than the operas that we will be hearing. It was a broad ranging program which included some spoken dialogue from Beaumarchais' plays as well as music from the operas based on those plays.

We heard some fine voices that we will look forward to hearing more of for the next three nights. The results of the artists' hard work was quite evident. Everyone sang well and the diction, even in English, was well above average.

There were a few scenes that stood out. Chief among them was Jay Chacon's performance of "Ja för fan det" from Inger Wikstrom's Den Brottslige Moderne. We are completely unfamiliar with this opera but online search reveals only that it was composed in 1939 and the composer is a Swedish woman. It was a captivating performance and we will search further when the season ends and we have time. The aria was melodic and intense.  The vocal line followed the Swedish language in a way that contemporary American composers seem to be unable to achieve.

We also heard arias from Massenet's Chérubin which we have never seen performed. Elizabeth Bouk sang "Je suis gris" with high spirits and fine bright sound. Alessandra Altieri sang "Lorsque vous n'aurez rien à faire" from the same opera in fine French. But our personal favorite was the Spanish inflected "Vive amour" sung by Ashley Alden.

Selections were heard also from John Corigliano's  The Ghosts of Versailles. Christopher Lilley impressed with his powerful voice and cynical attitude in "The Aria of the Worm". He was equally repellent (dramatically) in "Bégearss and the Revolutionary Women".

From Rossini's version of the Barber of Seville, we heard "La calunnia" well sung by bass Michael Spaziani --cheek by jowl with Mozart's "In quegli anni" sung by Korland Simmons, a tenor with a nice ring to his voice. How interesting that the two composers conceived of the character of Don Basilio in such disparate fachs!.

We did not relate to Darius Milhaud's "La mère coupable"; this will not go down in our book as an opera we are dying to see!

But Rossini's magical sextet "Freddo ed immobile" always tickles us. The entire evening was directed by Desiree Alejandro with Jeremy Weissmann as pianist and music director.

We are very much looking forward to hearing all these excellent young artists for the next three nights. The performance space has excellent sight lines and acoustics. Check it out!  Nagelberg Theater at Baruch College. Very worth your while!

(c) meche kroop

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