Monday, April 30, 2018
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Friday, April 27, 2018
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
|Jack Gulielmetti, Steven Blier, Julia Bullock, Paul Appleby, Antonina Chehovska, Theo Hoffman, Lauren Worsham, Mary Testa, John Brancy, and Michael Barrett|
Last night, New York Festival of Song celebrated their 30th Anniversary at Merkin Concert Hall. The well-curated songs were culled from several themed programs in NYFOS' history. Mr. Blier's customary witticisms peppered the notes in the printed program, relating for those who did not know how NYFOS got started-- in the small auditorium of the Greenwich House Music School, with room for only a hundred people.
We count ourself among the devoted followers. We don't even bother to find out what the theme of the evening is or who is singing because every program is sufficiently diverse to contain a few songs we will love and because the singers chosen to sing them are among our favorites.
Last night's program comprised a collection of songs taken from earlier programs which were sung by a group of artists that we adore, mostly known to us from Juilliard--artists we started writing about when we first started writing. Seven years later, these young singers are singing all over the world and garnering awards by the score.
Not every song rang our bell or touched our heart in the same manner but they all expanded our awareness of what that particular singer can do. And we are all about expanding awareness.
Take, for example, the very serious baritone John Brancy--an artist of great honesty and integrity. What a pleasure to hear him sing songs of romantic intentions and frivolous ones too! Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Spring Waters" showed Mr. Brancy's passionate side and his substantial baritone stood up well to Michael Barrett's equally passionate piano. The two together created a thrilling climax.
Another expansion was perceived during Gabriel Fauré's gorgeous and tender "En sourdine", sung in fine French with long Gallic lines. We heard an exquisite pianissimo and we decided that our favorite word in French is "rossignol".
Still another side to Mr. Brancy's artistry was heard in his colorful duet with tenor Paul Appleby--Ernesto Lecuona's "Como el arrullo de palmas". The harmonies were mellow and it sounded like a second cousin of Mariachi music.
We just reviewed Mr. Appleby's stellar performance in the title role of Candide at Carnegie Hall. Last night he impressed us with his performance of Jorge Ackermann's "Flor de Yumuri" accompanied not only by piano but by the guitar of Jack Gulielmetti and the percussion of Eric Borghi, which added so much to the Latin flavor.
We also enjoyed his "Tu vois le feu du soir", Francis Poulenc's setting of a text by Paul Eluard which was somewhat less surreal than others we have heard. Mr. Appleby never pushes his voice and we loved the apparent ease with which he spun out the final note.
We always feel most at home with Schubert and Mr. Appleby did complete justice to the jaunty "Taubenpost", a setting of text by Gabriel Seidl.
Baritone Theo Hoffman flew in from LA Opera's Young Artist Program to open the show with Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Orpheus With His Lute". Shakespeare's text may just as well have been speaking of Mr. Hoffman--"In sweet music is such art; Killing care and grief of heart".
That being said, we enjoyed him even more in the witty words and tuneful music of Stephen Sondheim who wrote "Talent" for a musical called Road Show that never made it. A distinguishing feature of Mr. Hoffman's performance is his English diction, which is so clear that not a word was missed. We wish that quality was not as rare as it is!
He also closed the program with the incredibly moving duet by John Lennon and Paul McCartney "In My Life", performed with the sensational soprano Julia Bullock, whose Carnegie Hall recital we just reviewed.
Ms. Bullock could grab our ear if she sang the proverbial phonebook but give her good material and she grabs our heart. Our classical taste was best satisfied by her heartfelt performance of Edvard Grieg's "En svane" but she also gave a toe-tapping performance of Fats Waller's early song "Ain't-Cha Glad".
Soprano Antonina Chehovska has been largely responsible for our evolving interest in Russian and Ukrainian music. One of the highlights of the evening was her performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff's seasonally appropriate "Spring Waters" which we have been hearing a lot lately. "To her" was new to us and its melancholy nature touched our heart.
Russian was not the only language we heard from Ms. Chehovska. Dvorák's gorgeous song "Mé sredce často v bolesti" was sung in Czech and the title translates as "My heart often ponders in sorrow" but we have included the Czech to demonstrate the difficulty of this language, a challenge well met by Ms. Chehovska. The melody drew us in and we recognized a motif the composer used in Russalka. We also heard a Wagnerian flavor in the harmony.
After the difficult Czech, the Spanish of Enrique Granados in "El mirar de la maja" must have seemed easy but the effect was just as lovely.
Adorable soprano Lauren Worsham seems equally at ease with opera and cabaret. She took a very strange unpublished song by the late Jonathan Larson entitled "Hosing the Furniture" and made sense out of what appears to be the "diary of a mad housewife" who lives in a house made of vinyl.
Her comedic skills were put to even better use in the 18th c. cabaret song "El dulce de América" which involved a lot of physical gestures to get the point across. This gal is funny!
Another Broadway star was on board for the evening--the legendary mezzo-soprano Mary Testa who performed Michael John LaChiusa's "Heaven" with a lot of bending of the tone. In Hoagy Carmichael's "Old Buttermilk Sky", she was joined by Mr. Gulielmetti playing the banjo and David Ostwald playing the tuba. We always enjoy an original arrangement!
There were more songs but we only have space to hit the highlights. But let's not omit the encore--the Beatles song "Obla-di obla-da", a wonderfully upbeat way to end the celebration, with everyone taking part!
We wish NYFOS another 30 years of song!
(c) meche kroop
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Monday, April 23, 2018
|The cast of Talents of the World paying tribute to Dmitri Hvorostovsky|
Dmitri Hvorostovsky brought us to tears twice. Once when he sang Rodrigo in Verdi's Don Carlo at the Met, and once when he died prematurely. Honoring this legendary baritone was such a splendid idea! In a recital produced by Talents of the World at Zankel Hall last night, his friends and colleagues from all over the world joined together onstage for a generous program of operatic arias, Neapolitan songs, and Russian romances.
Baritone David Gvinianidze, president and founder of Talents of the World is much honored and also beloved from his hosting a TV show in his native Georgia. He took it upon himself to sing the aforementioned aria "O Carlo, ascolta...Io morró", which must have been even more emotional for him than for us.
A duet from the same opera--"Dio, che nell'alma infondere" was sung in perfect harmony by tenor Raúl Melo (who actually sang this duet with Hvorostovsky) as the eponymous Don Carlo, and baritone Oleksandr Kyreiev taking the role of Rodrigo.
In a long and varied program such as this, we get the opportunity to hear singers in a variety of roles and languages. We have to say that we enjoyed Mr. Melo the most when he sang opposite another singer. For example, his duet with mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze--the final scene from Bizet's Carmen--was riveting, not just vocally but dramatically. We believed every horrifying moment, even minus sets and costumes. We enjoyed this more than his solo song--Leoncavallo's "Mattinata" in which he performed for the audience rather than getting the message of the song across.
Regarding Mr. Kyreiev, we enjoyed him most when he sang in his native tongue. The song was not on the printed program so we were unable to identify it but there was no mistaking Mr. Kyreiev's ease, which allowed the timbre of his voice to be appreciated, along with variety of color and dynamics.
His voice blended well with others but his solo aria "O Vin Dissipe la Tristesse" from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet seemed unidimensional and needed more variety. What singer does not love a good drinking song! It's the operatic equivalent of an actor's death scene. He could do so much more with it!
"The impossible dream" from Man of La Mancha revealed an excellent facility with English but was plagued by the same lack of variety noted in the Thomas aria.
Obviously Russian songs (here we must admit to the error of lumping together Russian, Ukrainian, and Georgian) bring out the best in Russian singers. A highlight of the program was Mr. Gvinianidze's performance of "Tolko raz", a sentimental song about longing that was sung with great depth of feeling.
This same intensity of feeling was noted in the performance of "Core 'ngrato" by Giovanni Formisano, a tenor with such an Italianate sound that the scent of garlic permeated Zankel Hall! He also wowed us with Federico's lament from Cilea's L'Arlesiana.
Speaking of being wowed, we took great pleasure in the performance of baritone Junhan Choi. This artist impressed us with his sincerity in every role he sang. There was no trace of "showiness" but rather a dedication to the character he was performing.
He made a believable Dr. Malatesta in Donizetti's Don Pasquale, singing the duet "Pronto io son" with soprano Olga Lisovskaya, who kept trying on faces and gestures with which to convince the titular character that she was an innocent convent girl.
He absolutely shone in the warhorse "Largo al factotum", bringing new life to an overheard aria, showing a lot of personality and variation in color. Some of the embellishments sounded original to our ear and the tongue-twisting patter moved briskly along.
Ms. Lisovskaya is not only a wonderful singer but also a director, teacher, and producer, serving as director of Talents of the World. She made an excellent host for the evening and made a brief appearance as Oscar in a scene from Verdi's Ballo in Maschera in which Mr. Melo used his gorgeous instrument to portray Riccardo's anguish over his illicit love for Amelia.
Mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze made several appearances, all of them excellent, giving evidence of her versatility. She made a fine Dalila, seducing Samson in "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" from the Saint-Saëns opera. There was a lovely decrescendo to an almost whispered pianissimo, a distinctive timbre to her voice, and variety of dynamics that contributed to a highly expressive delivery.
We had never heard of El Salvadorean pianist William Gomez and we will be ever grateful to Ms. Surguladze for introducing us to his arrangement of "Ave Maria". The lovely melody sounds nothing like other contemporary music but neither does it owe anything to the Schubert setting. The sound of Spanish fell on the ear gently. There is even a humming section!
Her duet with Mr. Gvinianidze--Albinoni's "Adagio" was lovely.
Soprano Anni Kolkhida performed "Vissi d'Arte" from Puccini's Tosca, creating a nice spin in the upper register but not exhibiting enough breath support in the middle and lower parts of the register. Her dramatic skills emerged in "Mira, d'acerbe lagrime", her duet with Count di Luna (Mr. Gvinianidze) in which she tries to save the life of her lover Manrico. The pair also did well in Vincenzo Di Chiara's isolated hit song "La Spagnola".
There was also a strange iteration of Robert's aria from Tchaikovsky's Iolanta performed by Mr. Gvinianidze, Mr. Kyreiev, and Mr. Choi! Not bad, just odd.
Whenever you get a soprano, a mezzo, a tenor, and a baritone in the same room, you just know you will get the final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto. And we did. Mr. Formisano sang the Duke, Ms. Lisovskaya sang Gilda, Ms. Surguladze sang Maddalena, and Mr. Kyreiev sang Rigoletto.
The two pianists for the evening were Alexandra Naumenko and Victoria Ulanovskya, who played an improvisation dedicated to Mr. Hvorostovsky entitled "The world is empty without you".
We miss Dima and he is not replaceable, but our world will never be empty as long as there are singers and songs!
The proceeds of the concert will go to organizations researching childhood cancer, a superb way to honor an artist who gave many concerts to benefit children in need.
(c) meche kroop