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, September 25, 2019


Victor Khodadad and Barbara Porto

What a completely wonderful evening we had last night at New Camerata Opera's Black and White Gala! Aside from the free flowing bubbly and the interesting food (each dish cleverly named for a New York neighborhood) there was the spacious Open Jar Studio filled with interesting people, all there to support the diverse activities of this growing company.

Not only do they produce operas but they bring the art form into the public schools. In between sets of entertainment, we watched a video of an opera put on for children, something about Peter Rabbit, set to music from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. We all hope that exposing children to opera when they are young will create some adults who will "get" it.

The live entertainment emphasized the truth of one of our beliefs--that American musical theater, performed by good unamplified voices, can stand up successfully to opera. After all, in the 19th c. opera was a popular art form--entertainment, if you will. People went to the opera for the melodies and to see their favorite performers! We are waiting for contemporary composers to create works with melodies, works that we will want to see again and again.

So, going back to the 20th c. we had some great works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and by Lerner and Loewe--works that still enchant us today. Speaking of enchantment, we loved the warm tone of baritone Stan Lacy singing "Some Enchanted Evening" from Rodgers and Hammersteins' perennial hit South Pacific.

Tenor Victor Khodadad and soprano Barbara Porto enchanted us equally in "People Will Say We're in Love" from the same team's other hit Oklahoma. Ms. Porto has a particular gift for American Musical Theater as evidenced by her winning performance of "I Could Have Danced All Night" from Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady. She joined again with Mr. Khodadad for "Tonight" from Bernstein's West Side Story.

We have no intention of giving opera short shrift here; it's just that we wanted to make a point. The NCO singers switched back and forth, further emphasizing the similarities.

Everyone loves the quartet from the final act of Verdi's Rigoletto and we never tire of hearing it. Last night the role of the eponymous court jester was performed by baritone Scott Lindroth, comforting his daughter Gilda (sung by Ms. Porto) whilst the licentious Duke (sung by Mr. Khodadad) was busy seducing the half resistant/half seducible Maddalena (performed by mezzo-soprano Julia Tang).

Tenor Erik Bagger exhibited a fine command of Russian in his performance of Lensky's famous aria "Kuda, kuda vi udalilis" reminding us of how thoroughly we enjoy Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and how deeply felt this aria is.

From Pietro Mascagni's realismo opera Cavalleria Rusticana, the chilling aria "Ah! Lo vedi!", in which Santuzza confronts Turridu, was given a passionate performance by Mr. Bagger and soprano Eva Parr.

Taking us into the early 20th c. with "Pierrot's Tanzlied" from Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die tote Stadt was Mr.Lacy who ended the aria with the most exquisite diminuendo. This is an opera we have yet to see but it is high on our wish list.

Speaking of our wish list, NCO will be presenting a zarzuela next month! As our readers may recall, this is a musical form that is dear to our heart and we are totally twitterpated about it. El Barbero de Sevilla, by Giménez and Nieto with libretto by Palacios and Perrín, will be performed with dialogue in English and songs sung in Spanish. Pablo Zinger, Mr. Zarzuela himself, has reduced the score for chamber orchestra.

The superb accompanist last night was Eric Sedgwick whose 10 fingers on the piano made almost as much music as an orchestra.

We would like to end by relating how the two young women at our table, opera newbies both, had as much fun as we did. It's exciting young companies like NCO that will draw young people into the world of opera.

© meche kroop

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