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, February 15, 2016


Kristina Bachrach, Miori Sugiyama, Michael Brofman, Dominic Armstrong, and Jorell Williams

Neither frigid air nor subway delays shall keep us from our appointed rounds!  Today took us deep into Brooklyn for one of Brooklyn Art Song Society's excellent themed recitals--this one in partnership with the Classical Theater of Harlem, part of BASS' season-long exploration of Britannica.  It was held in the comfortable theater of the Brooklyn Public Library and was very worthwhile.

We enjoyed the music interspersed with readings from Shakespeare by three members of the Classical Theater of Harlem: Dylan Moore, Lelund Thompson, and Shyko Zwambila; we confess that we could not grasp the connections between the recited selections and the songs but that may be attributed to our deficiency in Shakespearean text. Only a few of the readings were familiar to us and we particularly enjoyed the lines from Richard III (who would NOT be familiar with Richard's opening speech!) and the lines from Twelfth Night.

The songs were well chosen to highlight the artistry of soprano Kristina Bachrach, tenor Dominic Armstrong, and baritone Jorell Williams. But, we are sad to say, only Ms. Bachrach performed all her selections off the book and was therefore far more connected with the audience. This is a particular situation about which we are rather demanding.

Accompanied by excellent BASS regular Miori Sugiyama, Ms. Bachrach was particularly fine in Richard Strauss' Ophelia-Lieder Op.67 and Hector Berlioz' "La Mort d'Ophelie". We desperately wanted to hear appropriate readings from Hamlet but there were none. Still, Ms. Bachrach created a sympathetic portrait of Shakespeare's tragic figure. 

We always love Schubert's "An Sylvia" and Mr. Armstrong's sweet tenor did justice to the legato vocal line with Mr. Brofman's piano offering contrasting staccato piano work. But we enjoyed the tenor more when he sang Roger Quilter's "Orpheus with his Lute" because he abandoned the music stand and connected more with the audience. Quilter's "When Icicles Hang by the Wall" seemed particularly apropos!

Gerald Finzi seemed to have handled the English language uncommonly well, or else Mr. Williams is uncommonly gifted since "Come Away Death" and "What is Sylvia?" made a fine impression on us. The vocal line seemed to match the rhythm of the language in a manner not heard from most contemporary composers. We attribute this success partly to Mr. Williams and partly to Mr. Brofman, both of whom seem to have a flair for Finzi.

There will be more recitals in the season's exploration of Brittanica. And how worthwhile is THAT!

(c) meche kroop

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