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, June 6, 2016


Hasan Ozcan, Gennadiy Vysotskiy, Violetta Zabbi, Juan Del Bosco, Carlos Jimeno, Noam Katz, Galina Ivannikova, Kofi Hayford, Jeffrey Perez, and Jason Lim

Last night's search for summertime opera took us to the National Opera Center where the New York Opera Theater presented a concert version of Verdi's masterpiece Rigoletto, of which we never tire--although we have reviewed it several times this year and just recently at Amore Opera.

Verdi's melodies are incomparable and Francesco Maria Piave's libretto does a great job of storytelling.  Music and words combine to create well-rounded characterizations that require only good performers to inhabit them.  In a piano reduction, one might miss the orchestration but, in the hands of Music Director Violetta Zabbi, we were content. Even the storm scene in Act IV created enough meteorological verisimilitude.

The performers were, for the most part, excellent, especially in their Italian diction. Without titles, it is a great advantage to be understood.

The heartbreaking role of Gilda was beautifully performed by soprano Noam Katz who was assisted by her innocent and beautiful appearance. We admired the way she conveyed various emotional states by means of vocal coloring, facial expression and gesture.  Her bright youthful soprano and facile coloratura served her well.

The New York Opera Theater has a mission of role preparation and Ms. Katz' seemed well-prepared to go onstage anywhere with her Gilda; she is solid in her familiarity with the role.  Although the program did not include bios, we would think she has sung the role before. And probably several times.

Similar in commitment and preparation, baritone Carlos Jimeno made a very fine Rigoletto--although his tall dignified bearing would have required elaborate costuming to convince us! He exhibited a wide emotional range and his duet with Gilda was superb. He handled his tenderness toward her as effectively as his antipathy toward the courtiers.

In the role of the Duke, the tenor was indisposed and having insurmountable vocal distress. Fortunately, in Act II, Mexican tenor Juan Del Bosco took over.  His is a large voice that he might learn to harness and scale down when the performing space is small.  Scorca Hall has very lively acoustics! He sounded best when he sang from offstage and one could still hear him loud and clear.

He is a musical singer with fine phrasing and superb Italian diction; but like many tenors he pushes on his high notes when he might do better to float them. The upper reaches of the staff does not mean the upper limits of volume. Although he seemed to know the role well, he turned to the score on the music stand which interfered with his otherwise fine acting.

We loved mezzo-soprano Galina Ivannikova in the role of Maddalena.  She has a rich unique sound which one rarely hears in this fach. Her work in the quartet was outstanding. We wish to hear more of her!

Bass roles were well-sung. Kofi Hayford performed Monterone, a role which sat very well on his rich voice.  Gennadiy Vysotskiy was truly menacing as Sparafucile and employed the bottom of his register well.

As Marullo, Borsa, and Ceprano, we heard Hasan Ozcan, Jason Lim, and Jeffrey Perez respectively. Their voices harmonized well and when they stepped away from their music stands they sounded even better.  Regular readers will recall how we feel about singers being "on the book".

The performance came in at two hours, with a few judicious cuts in dialogue.  We didn't miss Countess Ceprano at all. In terms of a concert version, this one was just the way we wanted to hear it, minus the music stands.  We never missed the sets and costumes.  We were happy to hear new singers showcased.

(c) meche kroop 

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