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 30, 2019


Michael Fabiano, Ermonela Jaho, Angel Blue, Stephen Costello, Artur Rucinski, Lisette Oropesa, Maestro James Gaffigan, Ailyn Pérez, Christian Van Horn, Jamie Barton, Lucas Meachem, Brian Michael Moore, and Corrie Stallings.
(photo by Dario Acosta)

Last Sunday saw the gathering of the tribe, denizens of what Fred Plotkin so aptly dubbed "Planet Opera", for the annual celebration of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, famed for forty years of aiding the careers of worthy young singers. The list of their award recipients looks like the Who's Who of Opera.

This year's award recipient was the stupendous soprano Lisette Oropesa who bedazzled the audience twice--once with "Come dolce all'alma mia" from Rossini's Tancredi and later with "Qui la voce...Vien diletto" from Bellini's I Puritani.

What we observed about her performances were a lovely evenness throughout the register with a soaring top which lends itself perfectly to the demands of coloratura. The Rossini is replete with scales and wide skips which she negotiated effortlessly. The Bellini involved some long lines that she phrased perfectly. The legato of the aria contrasted well with the fireworks of the cabaletta. Ascending and descending scales were performed with precision.

Soprano Ailyn Pérez, an all-time favorite of ours, was called upon to tell a story in "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's La Rondine--and what a storyteller she is! With consummate musicality, her phrases soared with emotional content and vocal beauty. 

Later in the program, she and baritone Lucas Meachem conspired to win the hearts of the audience with "Tu souvaint-il du lumineux voyage" from Massenet's Thaïs, with a lovely prelude from The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, led by Maestro James Gaffigan. We couldn't keep from visualizing the ballet scene set to the Meditation from Thaïs, the melody of which has remained with us, here played by the Concert Master.

The French was excellent, the delivery passionate, the dynamics nuanced, and the climax passionate and devastating.

Soprano Angel Blue's creamy tone was just right for "Depuis le jour" from Charpentier's Louise. Her portamenti were particularly exquisite. She evinced the generous size of her instrument in a fraught duet she sang with baritone Artur Rucinski--"Udiste...mira d'acerbe lagrime" from Verdi's Il trovatore. She showed her dramatic chops as a desperate woman and Mr. Rucinski sang with power. The cabaletta was especially exciting.

Mr. Rucinski seems to be a consummate Verdi baritone, as seen in his delivery of "Il balen del suo sorriso" from the same opera. He sang with admirable phrasing, gorgeous tone, and a delicious decrescendo. This role is just about perfect for his fine technique.

Tenor Stephen Costello, whom we first heard as Lord Percy, gave an excellent interpretation of the bewitched Don Jose in "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" from Bizet's Carmen. He sang with beautiful tenorrific tone and fine French, convincing us that he was a man possessed.

He was similarly persuasive as Lt. Pinkerton in the wedding night scene with Cio-Cio San from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Unfortunately soprano Ermonela Jaho was anything but convincing as the doomed heroine. She has her petite stature working on her behalf but her exaggerated gestures suggested anything but a 15 year-old Japanese girl. 

We liked her much better in "Io son l'umile ancella" from Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur in which exaggerated gestures are more suited to the stage actress she was enacting. We liked the well executed crescendo at the end.

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, another favorite of ours, has a most wonderful stage presence and unique vocal texture. Her voice has not only texture but a satisfying weight without any sacrifice of flexibility. She gave us two selections from Verdi's Don Carlo. In the "Song of the Veil" we noted the echoes of major thirds and some rapid turns which put her flexibility to good use.

In "O don fatale" we perceived the change of mood and color from passionate to introspective. We love a performance that is so heartfelt!  Ms. Barton makes a splendid Princess Eboli. We might add that for the second aria she exchanged her very becoming black gown for one that made a political statement--by flashing a rainbow. The crowd loved it. See the photos on our Facebook page (Voce di Meche).

Tenor Michael Fabiano put a unique spin on "Kuda, kuda" from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. He began quietly and built in power and dynamics until the aria reached a stunning conclusion. We really enjoyed the rare quality of floating his high notes. We also noted the contributions of the orchestra, especially the wind section.

Mr. Meachem injected new life into the clichéd "Largo al Factotum" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. He entered coming down the aisle from the rear of the hall and began at audience level, only climbing onto the stage a bit later. His gestures were unique and he colored his voice differentially when describing la donnetta and il cavaliere. What fun! In the patter part he was perfect (alliteration intended).

Introduced by resonant chimes from the percussion section, bass-baritone Christian Van Horn created a chilling and authoritarian Scarpa in the "Te Deum" from Puccini's Tosca.

The evening ended with the sextet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in which Ms. Oropesa's Lucia was joined by Mr. Costello's Edgardo, Brian Michael Moore's Arturo, Corrie Stallings' Alisa, Mr. Rucinski's Enrico, and Scott Conner's Raimondo. Of course with all that talent onstage it was memorable.

The contributions of the Metropolitan Orchestra were immeasurable and performed with their customary excellence. We want to see more of Maestro Gaffigan whose musical stature far exceeds his physical stature.

© meche kroop

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