|Sung Shin at Opera Under the Arch of Washington Square Park (photo by Ken Benson)|
The ever-expanding crowd did not give up when Opera Under the Arch was delayed due to a prior event occupying their space. New Yorkers know a good thing when they hear it, and the audience has been growing in this, the second year of Opera Under the Arch, a public festival organized by baritone Sung Shin.
Perhaps there were some tourists in the audience as well, and apparently everyone left satisfied by the exceptional performances, when the festival was obliged to move along at 10:00 by some complaining neighbors. Who could possibly object to such gorgeous music on a warm summer night!
The musical values were of the highest order and the audience was unusually attentive. Yes, cell phones were out but only to take photographs. No one was texting or talking. The selections were wisely chosen from among the most popular opera standards, reminding us that in the 19th c. opera was a popular art form, not "highbrow culture". How good it felt to see people having a good time!
Baritone Sung Shin chooses his singers and collaborative pianists wisely. At the keyboard we had composer/ pianist Hohyeon Kyung and Andrew King. Sopranos included Show Yang, Yvette Keong, Natalie Eccleston, Sara Jayne Blackmore, and Isabel Vigliotti; mezzo-sopranos included Jordyn Goldstein and Lu Liu; the two tenors were Joseph Tancredi and Omar Bowey; baritone roles were performed by Sung Shin himself; our notable bass was Hidenori Inoue. We have reviewed them all and have only good things to say about them.
The program opened with "Dôme épais" from Léo Délibes' Lakme, an audience pleaser if ever there was one. Ms. Yang's crystalline soprano was joined by Ms. Goldstein's well-matched mezzo in that soaring melody we so love.
The aptly named Mr. Tancredi did a swell job as the Duke in "Questa o quella" from Verdi's Rigoletto, showing us everything we needed to know about the fickle Duke. Mr. Tancredi has a fine set of pipes and Italianate phrasing. His voice is perfumed with garlic! Later in the evening we got another look at the licentious Duke when Mr. Bowey performed "La donna e mobile".
Ms. Yang returned for Blondchen's aria "Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeilchen" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, showing as much facility with German as she exhibited in the French.
Ms. Keong wowed us with her bel canto technique in Norina's aria "Quel guardo il cavaliere" from Donizetti's Don Pasquale. Later we heard Mr. Shin and Mr. Inoue exhibiting wonderful comedic chops in the very funny "Cheti cheti immantinente" in which neither one was daunted by the rapid-fire patter.
From Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, we enjoyed the duet "Ah perdona al primo affetto", performed by Ms. Vigliotti as Servilia and Ms. Goldstein as Annio.
Sara Jayne Blackmore captured all the excitement of the innocent Juliet in "Je veux vivre" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and the audience responded with wild applause.
Response was similarly enthusiastic for Ms. Eccleston's winsome performance of Adele's Laughing Song "Mein Herr Marquis" from Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus. Her voice was bright and the trill delicious.
Mr. Sung delighted us with "The Impossible Dream" from the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha composed by Mitch Leigh with lyrics by Joe Darion. This sounded more operatic than some of the contemporary operas we've heard in the past few years, especially the way Mr. Sung sang it.
The audience went wild for Mr. Inoue's performance of "Le veau d'or" from Gounod's Faust. A small dog in the audience joined in for some canine tenor input and Mr. Inoue broke the surrounding fourth wall and interacted with the audience. He certainly made Lucifer fun and accessible!
Délibes showed up again in an aria from Les Filles de Cadix that we have never heard before. Ms. Vigliotti's sensational performance made us want to hear the entire opera with its Spanish inflected score. She ended with a crystal-breaking high note.
We have heard "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia many times this month and always enjoy seeing what a different singer can do with it. Ms. Liu's marvelous mezzo, personal charm, and artistry with embellishments brought something new to the aria, as we had hoped it would.
What a win-win situation! Greenwich Villagers had another evening of priceless entertainment and the talented young singers got to do what they love doing. There was so much enthusiasm and responsiveness on both sides, especially toward the end when the audience was encouraged to close in around the piano. We were all moved by the spirit of community and that is one of the great features of good music!
Watch our page on Facebook (Voce di Meche) for information on the next installment of Opera Under the Arch--most likely in July.
(c) meche kroop