|Andrew Cummings, Antonina Chehovska, Maestro Richard Owen, Tammy Moore, and Riad Ymeri
The lavishly decorated St.Jean Baptiste Church has a resident orchestra called Camerata New York Orchestra and a fine orchestra they are indeed. Last night they presented an Opera Gala that packed the church from the first pew to the last. We have no way of knowing whether the huge crowd comprised opera fans or newbies.
Maestro Richard Owen not only conducted but explained each aria before it was performed, leading us to think that perhaps the majority of the crowd was not made up of experienced opera goers. What better choices could one have made than Mozart, Bizet, Puccini, Leoncavallo, and Tchaikovsky! The choices were tempting to newbies but equally satisfying for regular opera goers. We had the pleasure of hearing two singers of whom we are most fond, and two which we would like to hear again.
A major highlight was soprano Antonina Chehovska performing the "Letter Scene" from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, a work which Utopia Opera is presenting this weekend and which we will review. Ms. Chehovska has won awards from just about every foundation around and we have always been there to witness her artistry. As the innocent and confused Tatiana, Ms. Chehovska was completely believable. She sang with a beautiful clear tone, coloring her voice to match the many variations of mood undergone by the character. Anyone able to recall their first infatuation would have been able to identify. It was a flawless performance.
It hasn't even been two weeks since we heard tenor Riad Ymeri perform the role of Don Jose in Amore Opera's production of Bizet's Carmen. So we were not at all astonished by the excellence of his intense performance of "La fleur que tu m'avais jetee". Still, we found plenty of subtle variations as he accompanied mezzo-soprano Tammy Moore in the "Seguidilla". Ms. Moore gave quite a steamy performance as the manipulative and seductive Carmen with Mr. Ymeri's subtle shift from feigned indifference to total abandonment particularly noteworthy.
Ms. Moore put her fine instrument through its paces in the fiendishly difficult "Smanie implacabile" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Her Dorabella was joined by Ms. Chehovska's Fiordiligi for the lovely trio "Soave sia il vento" from the same opera. The role of Don Alfonso was sung by baritone Andrew Cummings and we were swooning over the delicious harmonies.
Mr. Cummings had a fine solo as Escamillo, singing the "Toreador Song" with fine voice and minimal arrogance. He had another fine solo singing the "Prologo" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. He seemed more comfortable in the latter role.
We always love duets and his duet with Ms. Moore was particularly well done--"La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni. This seemed a comfortable role for him both vocally and dramatically and Ms. Moore made a willing Zerlina, a bit reluctant and quite a bit tempted.
The audience favorite, and perhaps ours as well, was the final scene from Act I of Puccini's La Boheme. Who doesn't know and love the scene in which Mimi comes to Rodolfo's door and they pour out their hearts to one another! Not only was the singing lovely but the acting was very convincing--so convincing that the absent scenery appeared in our mind's eye. Each artist showed the gradual shifts of mood one experiences when romance is on the horizon.
Ms. Chehovska's Mimi began shyly but grew in confidence as the scene progressed. Mr. Ymeri's Rodolfo began with the excitement of having a woman come to his door; you could almost read his innermost thoughts of how he might get her interest with a bit of humble-bragging. These are the kinds of performances guaranteed to get people interested in opera!
There were instrumental pieces as well and the orchestra performed in fine fashion for Maestro Owen. We heard Verdi's overture to Nabucco with its forceful trombone and tuba introduction and loved hearing the melody of "Va pensiero".
The music from Bizet's Carmen was portentous and featured some exciting kettle drumming. There was also a piece by Puccini written when he was a student--"Preludio Sinfonico". One could readily appreciate his skill with melody and orchestration.
When listening to instrumental music, we often focus on an instrument that stands out for us--frequently the harp or percussion. Last night we fixated on the oboe. It just seemed to be playing a most important part in many of the works. The oboist who so impressed us was Roy Beason.
We believe that those who entered the church as operatic non-believers left as converts!
(c) meche kroop