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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

FAR AND NEAR (and also DEAR)

Angela Dixon, Aumna Iqbal, Jane Hoffman, William Lewis, Joyce Yin, Mary Kathryn Monday, Brittany Fowler, Rebecca Richardson, and Tara Gruszkiewicz

Last night found us back uptown at the gorgeous United Palace of Cultural Arts for an intimate song recital given by Cantanti Project, of which the lovely Joyce Yin is Artistic Director. To say that the architecture almost eclipsed the singing is to praise the lavish decor, not to diminish the recital, which was quite lovely. 

We have followed Cantanti Project since its inception four years ago and have had the opportunity to hear some of the singers in prior productions. We also welcomed the opportunity to get acquainted with some singers heretofore unknown to us.

There were some very special moments to cherish, chiefly the opportunity to hear American songs that were instantly relatable and sung with clear enunciation so that not a word was lost. Sung without amplification (of course) these songs occupy a place in the canon which they so richly deserve.

Coloratura soprano Joyce Yin offered a stunning rendition of "If I Loved You" from Richard Rodgers' Carousel, showing a wide range of emotions and a delicate decrescendo at the end. A very funny song by Lee Hoiby entitled "The Serpent", from his Songs for Leontyne, allowed her to give full range to her palette of vocal colors and her charming personality.

We also enjoyed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", from Harold Arlen's The Wizard of Oz, which was arranged for two voices by our venerable accompanist/coach for the evening, William Lewis. Ms. Yin was joined by soprano Rebecca Richardson who impressed us with her appealing vibrato in "Chi bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La Rondine.

The versatile Ms. Richardson seasoned "De Ronda" with ample sazon. How could we not have known that Joaquin Rodrigo, composer of Concierto de Aranjuez, also wrote songs! This little gem was marked by a lovely melody and a concise and charming text about reaching for the inaccessible.

There were other duets on the program, to our delight. Inarguably one of every opera lover's favorite duet for female voice--the "Flower Duet" from Léo Delibes' Lakmé--was performed by soprano Jane Hoffman and mezzo soprano Brittany Fowler in perfect harmony.

The "Evening Prayer" from Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel was sung by soprano Angela Dixon and mezzo-soprano Aumna Iqbal. We just reviewed that opera the night before when it was sung in German.  Last night it was sung in English to no great detriment.

We enjoyed the contrast between the colors of two very different mezzo-sopranos in Consuelo Velásquez' famous "Besame Mucho". Mary Kathryn Monday's mezzo is on the lighter side whereas Tara Gruszkiewicz' coloration is significantly darker. We heard a contralto in the making!

Ms. Monday's delivery of the "Seguidilla" from Bizet's Carmen revealed plenty of contempt peeking out from behind the seductive exterior.

Ms. Hoffman introduced us to a composer with whom we are unfamiliar; Eva dell'Acqua's "Villanelle" had exceptionally fine writing for both voice and piano and offered the singer an opportunity to dazzle us with bird song, trills, and a vocalise. 

We were compelled to look up the composer. She is one of those unsung female composers, part Belgian and part Italian. We hope to hear more of her works, perhaps on a program with other largely overlooked female composers like Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, and Amy Beach. Ms. Hoffman would seem the perfect singer for such a program since she also performed Ms. Beach's "I send my heart to thee" from Three Browning Songs.

Ms. Fowler performed one of Ms. Mendelssohn's songs, as a matter of fact--"Nachtwanderer" from Sechs Lieder, a lovely piece and well sung in fine German. She also sang clearly in English, Mr. Lewis' arrangement of the folk song"Shenandoah" sung with great depth of feeling.

Ms. Iqbal had no trouble with the low tessitura of "Home" from Alan Menken's Beauty and the Beast, a wonderful song from a show with which we are unfamiliar. She also performed Robert Schumann's "Wanderung" from Zwölf Gedichte.

We are also unfamiliar with Bernstein's Peter Pan but found Ms. Monday's delivery of "Build My House" pure delight. We are so glad for the preview because we are going to Bard next week to review that American musical/opera!

Ms. Gruszkiewicz showed her versatility by performing Aaron Copland's arrangement of the spiritual "At the River" and also one of the songs from Dvorák's Gypsy Songs -- the sentimental "Als die alte Mutter", sung in fine German. 

The entire cast joined forces for "Go the Distance" from Alan Menken's Hercules, another work with which we are unfamiliar.
Everyone went the distance.  Ours consisted of a long ride home on the A train! The excellent show made it all worthwhile.

(c) meche kroop

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