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 21, 2019


Elliot Paige, Sunwoo Park, Hayan Kim, and Duke Kim

Our last night in Santa Fe always coincides with the second of two concerts of opera scenes starring the Santa Fe Opera Apprentices. All summer these talented young artists spend their time honing their skills, fulfilling small roles in the five regular productions, and finally getting two successive Sunday evenings to star in eight different scenes. This is truly the highlight of our year. We are familiar with some of these young artists--those who live in New York City or have participated in award recitals and concerts. What a thrill to witness their artistic growth!

Many of last night's scenes struck us as being culled from popular operas, but not necessarily the scenes we consider the "best" nor the ones with the most famous arias or duets. It was a fine opportunity to expand one's focus.

Take, for example, the scene depicted above, from Mozart's singspiel-- Die Entf├╝hrung aus dem Serail. This was a golden opportunity to enjoy the comic antics of Elliot Paige portraying the servant Pedrillo who wants to share his love of wine with the reluctant Osmin. It was so much fun watching the stiff poker-faced William Meinert being converted to loyalty to Bacchus!

David Paul's direction was absolutely perfect. When the other characters entered, the focus shifted to the parallel relationships between Pedrillo and Blondchen (the adorable Sunwoo Park) and that of Konstanze (the beautiful Hayan Kim) with Belmonte  (the terrific tenor Duke Kim). The two men reveal their suspicions of what their sweethearts did with the Pasha; the women are hilariously offended. Darby Newsome's period costumes were just right. The voices were uniformly excellent and so was the acting. We couldn't keep from imagining how the audience of Mozart's day must have roared with laughter.

In terms of excellent voices, we enjoyed watching the first scene of Of Mice and Men. We greatly admired Bille Bruley's tenoriffic portrayal of the emotionally impaired and childlike Lennie, whose care was entrusted to the much put-upon George, portrayed by the full-voiced bass-baritone Tyler Zimmerman who limned all the ambivalent emotions of his character.

We thrilled to their valid characterizations but not to the rather tuneless writing of Carlisle Floyd. Steinbeck's prose didn't need Floyd's music, but we couldn't help thinking what the prose might have sounded like in the hands of a Broadway composer; they seem to know better how to create melody.

The scene chosen from Donizetti's Lucia de Lammermoor was the one in which Enrico (baritone Benjamin Taylor) bullies his sister Lucia into being a political pawn to restore him to power. Soprano Jana McIntyre, costumed by Naomi Beetlestone Detre in a stunning red riding coat, sang and acted with great intensity, countering her bother's physical violence with some blows of her riding crop, making it the most brutal iteration of the scene that we have ever witnessed. Kudos to Paul Curran for his fine direction and to tenor Ricardo Garcia for his nasty Normanno.

The scene chosen from Verdi's Falstaff involved some excellent ensemble work. Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Sarian made a fine Meg Page, comparing letters with her friend Anne Ford (soprano Ann Toomey)--both of whom were being courted by Sir John Falstaff. Also on hand was mezzo-soprano Kathleen Reveille as Dame Quickly as well as the young lovers Nanetta (Ms. Park) and Fenton (Mr. Garcia)--all splendid in their performances.

Mr. Curran directed the scene as a French farce with women ducking behind the laundry on stage right and the jealous husband Ford (baritone Jarrett Logan Porter) accompanied by Doctor Caius (Mr. Bruley), Pistola (Mr. Zimmerman), and Bardolfo (tenor Anthony Ciaramitaro) entered stage left. We loved everything about the scene except for the 1950's costumes. We fail to understand the penchant for translating operas into the 50's.  We suppose Maggie Drake was inspired by the production at the Metropolitan Opera.

In the Humperdinck opera, soprano Sylvia d'Eramo made an adorable Gretel whilst mezzo Gillian Lynn Cotter portrayed her brother Hansel very convincingly. Their respective voices balanced well. In the scene chosen the siblings are alone in the woods and comforted by the Sandman (Hayan Kim). Costumes by John Polles were most attractive and suitable.

A few years ago we saw Daniel Catan's Florencia en el Amazona and enjoyed both the story and the music, the vocal line of which was sung in Spanish. We were delighted to have our memory refreshed by the scene in which an unhappy couple are playing cards with journalist Rosalba (soprano Danielle Beckvermit) and the captain's nephew Arcadio (tenor Eric Taylor). The unhappiness of Paula (mezzo-soprano Kaitlyn McMonigle) and Alvaro (bass-baritone Andrew Moore) was expressively sung and in fine contrast with the apparent innocence of the younger folk.

Puccini's Tosca was represented by the first scene in which bass Cory McGee convincingly portrayed a desperate Angelotti, recently escaped from prison and seeking refuge in the church. Tenor Justin Stolz took the role of Mario Cavaradossi and bass-baritone Alan Higgs stole the scene as a very funny Sacristan. Mr. Higgs has a real gift for creating an individual character, as observed last week when he enacted the Mayor in Jenufa.

The evening ended with a jolly piece of fluff which seemed designed to send the audience out in a cheerful mood. From Kurt Weill's Street Scene, we enjoyed the scene in which Lippo Fiorentino (tenor Angel Romero) brings ice cream cones for his neighbors to enjoy and sings a paean to ice cream. The role of his wife was sung by Ms. Beckvermit, with the role of neighbors taken by baritone Ian Burns, Ms. McMonigle, bass Brent Michael Smith, and baritone Will Hughes. The ensemble work was flawless.

We can scarcely wait for next year's Apprentice Recitals and hope to hear once more some of these excellent young artists.  Bravi tutti!

(c) meche kroop

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