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.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Jessica Rose Cambio, John Kaneklidis, Erik Van Heyningen, Eve Queler, Steven Herring, Antoni Mendezona, and Douglas Martin

Last night at The Kosciuszko Foundation we had the rare opportunity to learn something from Maestra Eve Queler about the singers who cover roles; this is something to which we have not given much thought. These singers learn a role that they may or may NOT ever get to perform. The five superb singers we heard are covers for the upcoming performance of Gaetano Donizetti's 1833 tragedia lirica Parisina d'Este which will be performed in concert version on May 4th at Rose Hall.

Eve Queler will be conducting, as she did when she introduced New York to this rarely heard opera in 1973-- with Montserrat Caballé, Luis Quilico, and James Morris. On May 4th there will be an all-star cast including Angela Meade, Yunpeng Wang, Sava Vemić, and Mia Pafumi.

Last night we heard the covers for these superstars and they are themselves far along the way to stardom. The opera was introduced by Maestra Queler and we heard a generous selection of arias, duets, and ensembles from the opera, with the singers explaining what was going on at that particular point in the plot.

The libretto by Felice Romani is based on a poem by Lord Byron which was, in turn, based loosely on real historical characters. The plot is a real pot-boiler! The story of a man who marries the woman beloved by his son was tackled later in Verdi's Don Carlo. You just know this is not going to end well.

In 15th c. Ferrara, women were chatel and were often married off for political reasons.  Poor Parisina is in love with Ugo who is the son of Duke Azzo's banished first wife. Ugo was raised by the Duke's minister Ernesto who has kept the parentage secret. Poor Ugo does not enjoy the favor of the court, especially when the Duke finds out that his second wife Parisina is in love with him, a fact the Duke learns when she talks in her sleep.   Uh-oh!

On this framework, Donizetti has lavished his melodic and harmonic genius. We can only wonder why the opera is so rarely produced. Perhaps it is because the singing is so challenging. The young singers serving as covers acquitted themselves brilliantly.

As Parisina, we heard soprano Jessica Rose Cambio who invested the lyric passages with beautiful phrasing and firm sound.  She has weight to her voice and an exciting upper register but more than enough flexibility for the fioritura; she was particularly remarkable in each cabaletta. 

She had a lovely duet with her handmaiden Imelda, tenderly sung by soprano Antoni Mendezona, and a touching love duet with Ugo in a melting minor key. Her lyrical phrasing was most evident in the aria in which she sings herself to sleep.

Her Ugo was stunningly sung by tenor John Kaneklides who opened the program with a duet with his foster father Ernesto, sung by Erik Van Heyningen, the strength of whose bass-baritone belied his youthful appearance. The two voices blended beautifully and the cabaletta was filled with excitement as Ernesto tries to warn Ugo to hightail it out of Ferrara.

Mr. Kaneklides' depth of feeling and lovely legato phrasing was manifest in his final aria as he accepts his tragic fate.

Baritone Steven Herring made a fine Duke Azzo as his feelings toward his wife morphed into murderous rage.  What a fiery cabaletta he produced!

The final quartet was marked by Donizetti's rich harmonies, alone sufficient reason to spend an evening with OONY. Piano accompaniment was provided by Douglas Martin.

Don't miss this opportunity to hear a largely undiscovered highlight of the bel canto repertory!

(c) meche kroop

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