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 1, 2016


Opera Collective's Encore Gala Concert at The National Opera Center

Last night we were invited to a concert given by a collective of 13 singers, most of whom were unknown to us. We were impressed by their high quality and curious about how they were all connected.  It turns out that they all sing in the subway! These singers are committed to making more people aware of the art form--a goal with which we are in complete accordance. Unless we are mistaken, they must audition for the privilege of singing underground. We are glad they came up from under!

They all have fine voices and showed evidence of committed preparations, especially the ten women. Readers will recall how much we dislike singers singing from a music stand and how disengaged we feel when they do so.  Even in a quartet, if one person is "on the book" it detracts from the other singers. Consequently, we will decline to mention those numbers on the program.

In the opening number, the "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen  (mezzo-soprano Rebecca Schuessler), the women of the chorus were "on the book" but that is forgivable.  From that moment on, all the women were well prepared and unleashed torrents of gorgeous music accompanied by Douglas Maxwell on the piano.

Soprano Jenny Ribeiro used her bright instrument and engaging personality to create a most believable Rosina in "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. We could not recall hearing more exciting fioritura than hers, so exciting that we forgot that the role was written for the mezzo voice. We hoped to hear more of her but did not; still, that was sufficient to persuade us that we'd love to hear her again in the future.

Soprano Kathryn Wieckhorst limned the character of Violetta in a meaningful way.  She sang "É strano...Ah, forse lui...Sempre libera" from Verdi's La Traviata, coloring each section according to the character's mood. Violetta's ambivalence came through loud and clear in this sympathetic portrayal.

We also enjoyed her Fiordiligi in "Soave sia il vento" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Her voice harmonized beautifully with the Dorabella of mezzo Elizabeth Mondragon and the Don Alfonso of baritone Daniel Akerman.

Ms. Mondragon was particularly noteworthy in "My man's gone now" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. It was deeply felt and consequently quite moving. Every word of the text was understood and she brought the aria to a sorrowful end with a gorgeous vocalise.

Soprano Stacey Canterbury impressed us with her "Dich teure Halle" from Wagner's Tannhäuser. She evinced a great big sound and immersed herself in Elizabeth's character. She clearly can handle different sorts of roles as she demonstrated in the cherry blossom scene from Puccini's Madama Butterfly.  With mezzo-soprano Hannah Kramer as her Suzuki, she harmonized beautifully. The two women scattered (faux) blossoms on the floor of the stage, thus completing the lovely image.

Ms. Kramer excelled in "Stride la vampa" from Verdi's Il Trovatore, exhibiting true mezzo sound and a gift for storytelling. We were spellbound.

Soprano Michelle Ferrara gave a fine performance of Juliet's poison scene from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, emphasizing the long French lines.

Mezzo Abigail Wright gave a lovely performance of the Composer's peacemaking aria "Sein wir wieder gut" from Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. We wish more mezzo sopranos would include this wonderful piece on their recital programs.

Soprano Alison Tynes made a very funny Olympia, the mechanical doll that captures Hoffman's heart in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Her idiosyncratic movements were coordinated with her highly agile coloratura fireworks. The embellishments were astonishing.

We believe these artists must have won many converts to opera in their subterranean performances. We would much prefer to see straphangers converted to opera than to Scientology!

(c) meche kroop

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