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, April 5, 2019


Chris Reynolds and Dominik Belavy

Dominik Belavy and Joshua Stauffer
"Sing what you love" was the advice offered by a famous conductor/coach to a Juilliard student (now world-famous) during a master class. That was his only comment. And it was great advice. Perhaps some of our readers were there and know of whom we are speaking. We will keep mum on that point unless pressed to reveal.  Hint: The former was JL and the latter was IL.

It came to mind yesterday when Dominik Belavy performed his graduation recital; he will receive his Master of Music Degree from Juilliard this year. We have had six years to appreciate his gentle lyric baritone and now it is time to see him move on. This is always a bittersweet time for the young artists and for this not-so-young reviewer. We love to see them move on to a professional career but we will miss them.

The reason we thought of that memorable moment from so many years ago was our witnessing the stunning manner in which Mr. Belavy came alive for the final set of his program, comprising Maurice Ravel's Histoires naturelles. This would never be on our short list of favorite cycles because of it's prosy quality, but Mr. Belavy's interpretation brought it up several levels in our estimation.

With great involvement he limned the self-important peacock, the frightened cricket, the cloud-obsessed swan, the combative Guinea hen, and above all, the image of a Kingfisher alighting on a fishing rod. His commitment to the text helped us to see everything in our mind's eye. It was a brilliant performance. We are sure that Mr. Belavy adores these songs. Oh, and did we mention that his French was as fine as one would wish and perfectly understandable?

What we adore is Schubert and collaborative pianist Chris Reynolds appears to share our feeling. His partnership with Mr. Belavy was most successful; still it is fair to say that Mr. Reynolds partners well with just about everyone. 

What we love about Schubert's lieder are the memorable melodies. The strophic nature of the songs helps these melodies to play over and over again in one's head so the delight is more than momentary. The major/minor shifts remind us that every joy has a touch of sadness and every grief has a touch of joy. Mr. Belavy responded by matching Mr. Reynold's variety of dynamics and color.

It is difficult to pick a favorite but "Des Fischers Liebesglück" is so filled with peaceful pleasure that we lean in that direction. Mr. Reynolds created the rocking of the boat and Mr. Belavy successfully negotiated the upward skips as he related the images of a courting couple out on the lake for a midnight row.

"Alinde" is right up there as well. Even though we just heard it recently it felt fresh and gave us the same pleasure at the end when the long-awaited Alinde finally arrives. Better late than never!

We found no flaw in Mr. Belavy's German and heard the same clarity in his performance of a selection of 17th c. English songs by Henry and William Lawes. These songs were accompanied by the theorbo, that magnificent instrument, here so well played by Joshua Stauffer, who also switched to baroque guitar for one song.

If we didn't relate to them we can attribute that to the use of the detestable music stand. Perhaps Mr. Belavy was too busy with other work to learn the songs sufficiently well to perform them off the book but we felt absolutely no connection. The tone was sweet, the words were clear, but the message stayed on the page. We found ourself focusing on that magnificent theorbo.

It occurred to us that perhaps Mr. Belavy did not love those songs so they stayed forlorn on the page. To give a song wings, one must love it and want to share it. So, JL was astute in his advice.  Mr. Belavy, sing what you love!

(c) meche kroop

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