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.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


New Amsterdam Opera Gala Concert at Riverside Theater

What a great variety of singers we heard last night!  Concerts of operatic arias are most fun when there is a variety of artists and the piano accompaniment is supportive. Both requirements were met as the New Amsterdam Opera presented their first gala concert in the comfortable theater belonging to Riverside Church. Their first event, a terrific Fidelio (review archived) was somewhat marred by some pretty awful acoustics.  We hope this theater will be their new home.

The opening duet is one of our favorites--"Belle nuit" from the Venice act of Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. The sweetness of Alyson Cambridge's Giulietta harmonized perfectly with Janara Kellerman's resonant Nicklausse.  Conductor Keith Chambers was the piano accompanist for the evening and set up the feeling of the imaginary gondola.

Another admirable duet was performed by mezzo-soprano Madison Marie McIntosh who created a wily Rosina for baritone Suchan Kim's Figaro in "Dunque io son" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. We love the moment when she produces her secret note for Count Almaviva and Figaro gets flummoxed. Ms. McIntosh's upper extension remains the most impressive aspect of her voice with flexibility to spare for the fioritura.

Everything Mr. Kim does is superb. We were impressed with his creation of the deformed character of the eponymous hunchback in Verdi's Rigoletto which he accomplished without any humping or limping.  It was all in the voice! The part of Sparafucile was well handled by burly bass Kevin Thompson who projected just the right degree of menace in "Signor. Va! Non ho niente"

Another duet we enjoyed was "Là ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Coloratura soprano Amy Owens made a sweet Zerlina who was converted from her initial resistance by a most persuasive Don, portrayed by the robust baritone Luis Ledesma whom we so enjoyed in Florencia en el Amazonas.  

He is another artist who seems to do everything well.  His solo "Nemica de la patria" from Giordani's Andrea Chenier was powerful and affecting.

Another fine soloist was soprano Zhanna Alkhazova who created the unhappy character Elizabetta from Verdi's Don Carlo. Hers is a substantial instrument which she colored effectively in her exploration of the character's musings in "Tu che le vanità". We were hoping to hear more of her but that was her only appearance on the program.

From the same opera we heard veteran bass Stefan Szkafarowsky in "Ella giammai m'amo" making the hateful character of King Philip somewhat pitiful. Kevin Thompson sang The Inquisitor but being "on the book" detracted from his ability to connect with Mr. S.

The use of music stands also impaired the full impact of the stunning final trio from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Ms. Owens made an appealing Sophie with mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel a fine Octavian. As the Marschallin, the excellent soprano Kirsten Chambers, whom we so enjoyed in Fidelio, came on too strong for Strauss' delicate writing which Mr. Chambers so elegantly captured on the piano.

There were other examples of performances too intense for the material. We love soprano Jessica Rose Cambio's powerful instrument but found it too heavy for the role of Nedda in the duet "Nedda! Silvio" from Leonavallo's Pagliacci. She also oversang and overacted as Cio-cio San in "Una nave da guerra" with Ms. Heltzel as her Suzuki.

The closing duet was "Tu qui, Santuzza" from Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana in which baritone Ta'u Pupu'a Turiddu was a fine match for Janara Kellerman's desperate Santuzza. This redeemed him from his awkward performance as Des Grieux in "Tu, tu, amore, tu" in which he and soprano Kelly Griffin failed to gel as a romantic couple and just seemed miscast.

Ms. Griffin was far better however in "Pace, pace mio Dio" from Verdi's La forza del destino.  Our companion shared our opinion that this opera needs to be produced more often and we were absolutely thrilled to learn that this will be New Amsterdam Opera's next production!

One other duet failed to come together--Ms. Cambridge's Mimi did not connect with Mr. Ledesma's Marcello in "Mimi?...Speravo di trovarvi qui" from Puccini's La Bohême. We could not put our finger on the cause but she was excellent performing "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Russalka, with great depth of feeling.

A late edition to the program was soprano Ashley Becker who sang “Ben t’io invenni…Anch’io dischiuso un giorno” from Verdi's Nabucco.

The Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening was the famed soprano Diana Soviero. We would have been happier had she contributed more to the evening than a hasty recitation of the revised second half of the program.

(c) meche kroop

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