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.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Ying Fang and Ken Noda

Newly landmarked St. Michael's Church played host for yesterday's Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert presented by the Weill Music Institute, as part of the Marilyn Horne Legacy. The gorgeous sunshine outside was no match for the gorgeous sunshine experienced within as the radiant soprano Ying Fang joined her vocal artistry with that of the renowned collaborative pianist, coach, and educator Ken Noda.

We get a special thrill from witnessing the development of young artists over the years and we have been writing about Ying Fang since 2012. She made a grand impression on us from the very start and we can only say that she keeps getting better and better, garnering prizes and roles at The Metropolitan Opera.

What great fortune for us to hear her up close and personal. This young lady has all the ingredients necessary for a major career. Her bright instrument is pure and clear and highly focused.  Her phrasing is gorgeous; her coloratura outstanding; her language skills prodigious.  But all this pales when one considers her ability to share her textual understanding with her audience. Every song becomes a mini-drama.

Three Handelian moods were conveyed in the opening set--the sensuality of "Endless Pleasure, Endless Love" from Semele contrasted well with the desperate supplication of "Angels Ever Bright and Fair" from Theodoro and the pure joy of "Oh, had I Jubal's Lyre" from Joshua. Her English diction was so clear that we forgot that we never enjoy singing in English.  This time we did!

Ken Noda's playing was crisp and precise and well suited to the material.  In the next set of Wolf songs, his playing became more lyrical and legato while Ying's singing brought apt story-telling to the selections from Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch. We had just heard the sorrowful "Mir war gesagt" the night before but Ying put her own stamp on it.

The final two songs "Du denkst mit einem Fädchen" and "Mein Liebster hat zu Tische" provided opportunities for Ying to demonstrate her delightful sense of humor.

A trio of Bizet songs brought the first half of the program to a stunning conclusion with the seasonal "Chanson d'avril" followed by the charming "La coccinelle", a delightful ditty that gave her three voices to play with--that of the peevish girl, her shy lover, and the wise ladybug. Facial expression and gesture accompanied and amplified the changes in vocal color.

We loved what Maestro Noda and Ms. Ying did with "Ouvre ton coeur"; the piano marched forcefully but shifted continually from major to minor while the voice conveyed a Spanish influence.

The second half of the program opened with a trio of traditional Chinese folk songs by 20th c. composers.  "A little path" and "Spring Yearning" reminded us that all cultures, no matter what their politics are, deal with love, both anticipated and disappointed. The final song "Night Mooring at Maple Bridge", was replete with moody piano writing and evocative images. Ying sustained the image by painting pictures that we could see. It was as if her voice created a hologram of a painting. Moreover, the sound of Mandarin was particularly lovely.

The recital closed with six romantic songs by Sergei Rachmaninoff, all of them gorgeously sung. We enjoyed the contrast between the ethereal "Son" accompanied by Maestro Noda's dreamlike piano, and the passionate "A-u!"

We were completely satisfied by the program and yet we would never have missed the encore--the "Shepherd's Song" from Wagner's Tannhäuser, much of it sung in breath-holding (ours, not hers) a capella. This is a role she has performed at The Met. It was a special thrill!

(c) meche kroop

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