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, February 17, 2018


Front Row--Raehann Bryce-Davis, Nora London, Lauren Margison, and Ben Taylor
Back Row--Lawson Anderson, Rihab Chaieb, and Emily D'Angelo (photo by Mark Von Holden)

We are so glad not to have been in the position of judging the George London Foundation Competition! The seventeen singers we heard yesterday, culled from 150 applicants, were all beyond excellent. It was a stellar opportunity to hear young artists we had heard and reviewed before, as well as to hear a couple that were new to us. To our ears, they all seemed destined for excellent careers. Several of them were winners of Encouragement Awards in past years.

We were particularly delighted to hear bass-baritone Lawson Anderson growing into the Wagnerian repertory; he made a fine impression with Wotan's "Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge" from Das Rheingold.  We hope by the time The Metropolitan Opera dumps the current disfavored production of The Ring Cycle,  Mr. Anderson will be on their short list of Wotans!

Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis demonstrated true star quality in "O ma lyre immortelle" from Gounod's Sapho.  She has a true rich mezzo sound, fine French diction, and was very much "in the moment". Her performance was emotionally riveting and she brought the aria to a stunning climax.

Soprano Lauren Margison was completely convincing as the bejeweled and bedazzled Marguerite in Gounod's Faust. The performance was polished, the French was superb, and we loved the thrilling trilling of her high-lying instrument.

Mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo, one of the youngest contestants at 23, can look forward to a fine career as a Rossini heroine. Her "Una voce poco fa" showed a great deal of ease and a fine facility for fioritura. The top of her register is brilliant and penetrating.

Mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb showed intense emotional involvement in "Oui, Dieu le veut" from Tchaikovsky's Jeanne d'Arc.  It was perfectly suited to the character she was portraying. Her French was completely comprehensible and we admired her skill with dynamic variation.

Baritone Ben Taylor performed "Ya vas lyublyu" (Yeletsky's Aria) from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame with a rich and pleasing tone. There was plenty of power there which he successfully harnessed for a lovely messa di voce. To our ears, his Russian sounded excellent.

Counter-tenor Daniel Moody gave us goosebumps in the very disturbing aria "Dawn still darkness" from Jonathan Dove's Flight, in the role of the refugee, which was performed by Jakub Jozef Orlinski the last time we heard it. Mr. Moody has a gorgeous tone and filled out the aria with appropriate anguish. Even at the top of his register his English diction made every word count.

We wish we could say the same about soprano Amy Owen's performance of "I am the wife of Mao Tse Tung" from John Adams' Nixon in China. The brilliance of her voice and the intensity of her dramatic presentation excelled but we couldn't understand a word. We wondered how such a tiny frame could produce such a large sound!

Mezzo-soprano Samantha Gossard showed a real feeling for her character Octavian in "Wie du warst!" from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. The timbre of her voice and her phrasing were perfect for the hormonal youth in his post-coital state of enthusiasm.

The lovely long lines of Bellini were well served by soprano Jana McIntyre in "Qui la voce" from I Puritani. There is an exciting quality to her instrument and the phrasing was quite wonderful. We loved the expressiveness and the dynamics. In the cabaletta we admired the coloratura and there was a gentle descending scale that was exquisitely rendered.

It was a pleasure to renew our acquaintance with soprano Deanna Breiwick who has been gracing the stages of Europe for the past few years. She still has the exciting timbre that we remember from Juilliard days and the penetrating high notes necessary for the exciting "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette; there is evidence of artistic growth as well.

Mezzo-soprano Corrie Stallings sang one of the few English language arias that we enjoy--Erika's lament "Must the winter come so soon" from Samuel Barber's Vanessa. She held my attention throughout by making the text perfectly clear and bringing out its poetry. We loved the melisma on the word "soon".

Soprano Madison Leonard used her brilliant coloratura well in "Glitter and be gay" from Bernstein's Candide. She created a Cunegonde who can enjoy the melancholic aspect as well as the pecuniary pleasures of her plight. It was a winning performance that set the molecules in the theater to vibrating.

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Coit showed fine flexibility in the fioritura of "Agitato da fiere tempeste" from Handel's Riccardo Primo.

Soprano Anna Dugan made us sit up and take notice in her convincing performance of the "Jewel Song" from Faust. There were overtones aplenty!  We are not sure why the judges scheduled two performances of the same aria on one program. The two performances were both excellent.

Tenor Martin Bakari gave an expressive performance of "Un'aura amorosa", Ferrando's aria from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. His tone is sweet and his pacing was perfect.

Tenor Aaron Short delighted with "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Franz Lehar's Das Land des Lähelns. His German was excellent and we heard every word.

Accompanist for the afternoon was the excellent and versatile Craig Rutenberg who supported each singer with excellent tact.

All told, it was a sensational afternoon, one we look forward to every year. Nora London made the introductory remarks and we always have the same thought--how wonderful it is to have established a foundation to honor a spouse who is no longer with us and how wonderful to support the careers of these emerging artists.  May they all go on to successful careers.  We are watching and listening.

(c) meche kroop

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