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, October 3, 2018


Kirsten Scott, Suchan Kim, SungWook Kim, and Liana Guberman with Laetitia Ruccolo at the piano

Last night Bare Opera initiated their fourth season with a "let out all the stops" celebration that will linger in our memory for a long time. The singing was beyond wonderful, but before we get to that, we'd like to tell you what made the evening somewhat unusual.

First of all was the audience. Our heart is made very glad when we see young people having a great time at the opera. The guests last night remained totally silent during the performances (in spite of the generous bar and buffet of goodies) but exploded into enthusiastic applause and "bravo"s after each performance. 

If opera is to survive it must be performed with artistry and commitment and it must be taken to venues were twenty-somethings feel comfortable. Last night's "opera party" was held in a fine resonant space, an art gallery on East 46th Street which was generously donated for the use of Bare Opera. There were only a couple chairs and the crowd was happy to stand.

Secondly, Music Director Laetitia Ruccolo, involved the audience in learning the choral parts to "Nessun Dorma" and later to "Toreador". Not only did everyone participate but they sounded great. As any wise teacher/coach might have, the engaging Ms. Ruccolo first taught the pronunciation of the words, and then, the melody. People are learning that opera can be fun!  Perhaps Karaoke parlors will soon include operatic arias!

As to the performances, most of them involved the four mainstays of the company--soprano Liana Guberman, mezzo-soprano Kirsten Scott, tenor SungWook Kim, and baritone Suchan Kim.  Each one is a gem but their ensemble singing revealed genuine unselfish collaboration.

In the opening quartet from Puccini's La Rondine, the four characters offered a toast to love. In the final ensemble, the cast joined in for the "Brindisi" from Act I of Verdi's La Traviata.  There is nothing like a drinking song to put people in a party mood! 

Everything in-between was similarly successful. We have never warmed to John Adams' Doctor Atomic, although we have seen it twice.  But mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter performed Kitty's aria (text by Muriel Rukeyser) with deep feeling and clear enunciation which, taken together, made sense of Kitty's loneliness. More credit for the lovely texture of her instrument!

Delicious pleasure was provided by Ms. Guberman as Poppea and Ms. Scott as Nerone in "Pur ti miro, pur ti godo" from Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea", a work Bare Opera will produce next month. The exquisite harmonies and overlapping lines still resonate in our ears. As a matter of fact, we have an "ear worm".  Not bad for a work written at the very dawn of opera!

SungWook Kim dazzled the audience with a powerful performance of "Nessun dorma", backed by the audience/chorus, Ms. Ruccolo's aforementioned master stroke.

Ms. Guberman and Suchan Kim seemed to have as much fun as the audience in a charming performance of the Papageno/Papagena duet from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. Clever use was made of the space as they began from opposite sides of the gallery and moved closer together, each exhibiting a spunky personality.

For vocal blending, nothing can beat the final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto. On one side of the gallery, Ms. Guberman enacted the innocent Gilda, appalled by witnessing the Duke's flirtation with Maddalena on the other side of the gallery. As her father, the court jester, Suchan Kim appeared to comfort her distress.  Meanwhile, Ms. Hunter as the tantalizing Maddalena flirted shamelessly with the deceiving Duke, sung by SungWook Kim.  Each character is singing something different but Verdi's writing and the artists' performances brought everything together.

Without missing a beat, the versatile Ms. Guberman changed character and became Violetta as she reconsidered her attitude toward love in "Sempre libera" from Verdi's La Traviata. Sungwook Kim played the offstage Alfredo.

Suchan Kim assumed the appropriate attitude and vocal coloration as he performed the Toreador song from Bizet's Carmen, with dramatic assistance from three adoring ladies (Ms. Guberman, Ms. Scott, and Ms. Hunter) and vocal assistance from the audience/chorus. One truly felt a part of the action!

The penultimate number before the final "Brindisi" came as a complete surprise. Accompanied by Maestro David Rosenmeyer, Argentinian artist Malena Dayen performed "Yo soy Maria" from Astor Piazzolla's 1968 tango operita. We have heard the work before-- but not performed as powerfully as we heard it last night. Bare Opera will produce it in the Spring and we can barely wait.

We left feeling satisfied in head and heart, wanting for nothing. Opera can do that!

(c) meche kroop

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