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.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


Resident Artists of Teatro Nuovo in recital at Purchase College

There are so many superb events taking place at Purchase College this week that we cannot stay away. We loved the Tancredi (scroll down for review) and we are looking forward to this weekend's Medea.  But we also love vocal recitals and always welcome the opportunity to hear singers who are new to us. 

Three of the singers, however, were well known to us.  Mezzo-soprano Madison Marie McIntosh has never disappointed us over a period of about five years and we have been watching her star on the rise with great pleasure; we aver that her success is partly due to consistent devotion to her art and partly due to a mature sense of self and the determination to map and pursue her own course.
Last night, in a program comprising only Italian canzone, she performed a trio of excellent Donaudy songs, two of which we know well ("O del mio amato ben" and "Spirate pur, spirate") and another-- "Tregua non ho"-- which was new to us. They were sung with perfect Italianate phrasing and that rich mezzo we love hearing. The longing for lost love was beautifully conveyed.

Soprano Mary-Hollis Hundley has been on our radar screen for almost as long. Two years ago at the Santa Fe Opera Apprentices Recital, we thrilled to her dignified Countess in Mozart's Nozze di Figaro; we heard her Russian in "Iolanta's Arioso" from the Tchaikovsky opera at the George London Awards Recital; he have seen her perform with Utopia Opera a couple of times.

Last night we enjoyed her duet with the fine tenor Christopher Bozeka in Ciro Pinsuti's "Sovvenir", involving some lovely harmonies. We were not so thrilled with a pair of beloved Tosti songs because she made use of the loathed music stand and failed to connect. 

She was not alone in this detested usage. Several singers created the irritating image of trying to act whilst looking back at the score.  This is just wrong for a song recital and we cannot be persuaded otherwise. Singers! If you want to connect with your audience, take the trouble to learn the score and ditch the music stand. If you don't you run the risk of boring us!

Tenor Mingjie Lei is also known to us for the past five years, first as a student at Manhattan School of Music and then from award recitals of the Licia Albanese Foundation, the Giulio Gari Foundation, and the Gerda Lissner Foundation. One night, his Nemorino was so moving that we ourself suffered from una furtiva lagrima. Last night we only heard one song--"Torna piccina mia"-- by Cesare Andrea Bixio and admired the phrasing and expressive use of dynamics. 

Mezzo-soprano Elena Snow impressed us only when she ditched the music stand for Trindelli's "L'ombra di Carmen" in which the Gypsy Carmen explains herself to Don Jose. What an interesting concept! 

Mr. Bozeka was as fine in his solo--Donaudy's "Vaghissima sembianza"--as in the aforementioned duet. Just imagine the 14-year-old composer creating such compositional beauty! Mr. Bozeka also closed the program with the famous Bixio song which lent its name to the program--"Parlami d'amore, Mariú". The sound is a sweet one! 

An audience favorite was the jazzy Bixio song "Vivere" sung by tenor Derrek Stark whom we heard once with the Palm Beach Opera Young Artists Program.  In the group of Tosti songs, he sang our favorite "L'alba separa dalla luce l'ombra", whilst baritone Junhan Choi won our admiration with "Aprile". Mr. Choi was even better in Mascagni's "Serenata".

William Lee Bryan lent his mellow baritone to Luigi Denza's "Occhi di fata".

It was a great opportunity to hear some little known songs by the 20th c. composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari whose Italienisches Liederbuch is very different from that of Hugo Wolf. Five selections were performed by soprano Celeste Godin who imbued these popular Tuscan songs with personality and wry humor.

The accompanist and engaging host for the evening was Timothy Cheung, whom we also remember from our evening with the Palm Beach Opera Young Artists Program.

It was quite a treat to be acquainted with Italian songs performed by young artists! I would call the program "Cantami d'amore".

(c) meche kroop

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