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.

Friday, November 16, 2018


Maestro Lachlan Glenn at Paper Box-- M.E.S.S. Event

The streets were messy as all get-out last night but "Messies" (members of Mise-en-Scène Studios) and their friends somehow got themselves to the depths of Brooklyn for the first of two events at Paper Box. Co-founders star tenor Ben Bliss and Maestro Lachlan Glenn welcomed the huge crowd and introduced a magnificently varied program of opera, dance, and instrumental music. The program had something for everyone and everyone seemed wildly enthusiastic.

It is a wise idea to introduce young people to opera, not as a lengthy ordeal to endure, but rather a small taste to relish, with the expectations that those exposed to world class singers in small increments will want to hear more. It seems to be a great approach and even a seasoned opera-goer such as ourself found the program both entertaining and stimulating.

The initial entry was the opening scene from Britten's The Rape of Lucretia in which tenor Andrew Stenson narrated and three Roman soldiers discussed the fidelity of the women left behind. Tenor Will Liverman as Prince Tarquinius and baritone Theo Hoffman as Junius are soured on wives and lovers who betrayed them. They are envious of Collatinus (bass Erik van Heyningen) whose wife is faithful. Fueled by alcohol and testosterone, the two soreheads plot to get Collatinus' wife to betray him as well. The singing was powerful on all accounts and the direction by Paul Curran made the scene all too believable.

Following an interlude of "Danse Russe" from Stravinsky's ballet Petroushka, played "one piano four hands" by four of the best hands we know (two belonging to Adam Nielsen and two belonging to Chris Reynolds), we witnessed a scene from Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédicte that had as much estrogen as the prior scene had testosterone.

Felicia Moore wielded her clarion soprano instrument deftly in fine French as she expressed her love for Claudio. The role of Ursule, her lady-in-waiting, was sung by the marvelous mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier.

A less familiar aria from John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles-- "Long Live the Worm"-- was sung with intense gesture and vocal expressiveness by Mr. Stenson, accompanied by Mr. Reynolds. This must be Mr. Stenson's "signature area" because we don't recall being quite that riveted by Bégearss' nasty aria on prior hearings.

The format of MESS events allows for a break between sets so that guests can enjoy socializing, drinking, and eating--in this case bespoke crepes. Food for the tummy as well as the ears!

The well known final quartet from Verdi's Rigoletto is a "can't fail" number as long as you have great singers in all four fachs. In this case, Gilda was sung by soprano Jacquelyn Stucker with the eponymous jester portrayed by Mr. Liverman. The pair cowered below stage, eavesdropping on the onstage pair--the lascivious Duke (Ian Castro) working his charms on the innkeeper's sister Maddalena (Ms. Rapier). It was absolutely thrilling.

We got an advance taste of the entertainment scheduled for next Spring, a program involving Indian dancer Preeti Vasudevan and singer Roopa Mahadevan, wearing traditional garments and bringing a lot of color to the evening.  See photos on our FB page Voce di Meche.

The final scene from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier is another scene we love and here we had soprano Brandie Sutton as Sophie and the versatile Ms. Rapier as Octavian. Ms. Moore appeared again lending vocal and gestural dignity to the role of the Marschallin. The three voices harmonized so beautifully and Mr. Reynolds created an entire orchestra in the piano. The "silver rose" theme came through gently but clearly.

An interlude of the third movement of Mozart's String Quartet #23 in F Major, performed by the superb Verona Quartet, was followed by the Finale of Act II of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.  In this scene, poor Lucia (Ms. Stucker) is being reluctantly married off to the unwitting suitor Arturo (Mr. Stenson) by her desperate brother Enrico (Mr. Liverman). Lucia's true love Edgardo (Mr. Castro) arrives at a crucial moment and bloodshed is threatened with Raimondo (Mr. Van Heyningen) trying to keep the peace. The other singers for the evening composed the chorus. Again, the direction was astute and the scene was not only finely sung but believably acted.

Maestro Glen has been known to us for years as an outstanding pianist but just wait until you witness his conducting acumen! 

There were excellent titles for the operas in foreign languages but there were also useful brief summaries of the scenes in the program.

Tomorrow's event promises to be just as compelling with the same superb singers on hand. Tonight proved just how versatile these artists are and we have no doubt about their ability to handle all the goodies on tomorrow's program.  We don't want to give everything away but let's just say there will be something wonderful from Bernstein's Candide and something by Mozart that everyone will love.

(c) meche kroop

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