|DeAndre Simmons and Jessica Sandidge|
How often we have written about Martina Arroyo Foundation's Prelude to Performance! Last night was their 13th gala, held at the JW Marriott Essex House and a significant percentage of the population of Planet Opera was there to celebrate and to honor four major stars.
First on our personal list was the legendary bass-baritone James Morris and the reason we put him first is because his performance as Wotan in The Ring Cycle changed our life. We don't think that experience will ever be equalled; but if bass DeAndre Simmons takes on the role we will be there. Mr. Simmons' career has taken off since his participation in Prelude to Performance in 2006 and the recognition is growing.
Soprano Jessica Sandidge made a stunning appearance as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme in 2016 Prelude to Performance and is also experiencing a meteoric rise in her career, winning wonderful reviews for her Micaela in Bizet's Carmen with Heartbeat Opera.
The other three honorees last night included world famous soprano Ailyn Perez whose performances have consistently delighted us; the much celebrated dancer/choreographer/director Tommy Tune; and the beloved Broadway star Chita Rivera. These four honorees have made major contributions to the arts and deserve to be celebrated.
Also deserving to be celebrated is the dearly loved soprano Martina Arroyo who, not content with a major international career, has devoted herself to passing the torch to young artists. There is no shortage of fine singers but the rough cut stones need polishing and that is where Prelude to Performance comes in.
Young artists chosen for the program receive invaluable training in role interpretation by means of studying the background of the opera from an historical perspective, and the study of their character's psychological motivation. Furthermore, there is coaching in the language to be sung. The young artists profit by master classes, which we can attest to after sitting in on most of them.
Two operas are presented each July at Kaye Playhouse, with full orchestra led by topnotch conductors. No expense is spared to create a professional level performance with appropriate sets and costumes. Moreover, the young singers are compensated, thanks to the generosity of supporters.
Anyone who has not attended these performances is truly missing out on a unique experience. Since our first experience attending and reviewing these performances we have never missed a single one. Usually we have enjoyed them far more than performances at "the big house" in Lincoln Center.
A word to the wise--don't miss out. Grab your seats as soon as they go on sale. The operas chosen are from the standard repertory and always suitable for introducing your friends to the wonders of opera.
(c) meche kroop