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.

Monday, October 21, 2019


Ryan Speedo Green and Latonia Moore

Our readers are probably already familiar with the top notch recital series at the Morgan Library sponsored by the George London Foundation. The Foundation runs a highly regarded competition that provides generous awards to young singers and is at the top of our list of worthwhile organizations supporting the very people we write about.

If you have not subscribed to this series of concerts or attended the annual competition, now is the time to do so. The competition features young artists and the recitals feature former winners who have already established major careers.

Yesterday's concert featured soprano Latonia Moore and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green, both stars at The Metropolitan Opera and also worldwide. As a young rising star at the Lindemann Program, we wrote about Mr. Green a number of times. Possibly our first exposure to his artistry was in 2012 when he won our attention with "La calunnia" from Rossini's Il barbiere di SivigliaWe heard a great deal of him in the next few years as he won awards from the Marcello Giordani Foundation, Opera Index, The Richard Tucker Foundation, and of course the George London Foundation. One might say he took the opera world by storm.

Strictly because of our taste, we have always preferred his comic performances, like Osmin's aria from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Among our favorites was his grand performance as Don Pasquale. On a more serious note, we remember a stirring performance of Banco's aria "Come dal ciel precipita".

Yesterday was a gloomy rainy day and we had hoped for something more lighthearted than the dark philosophical songs on the program. Liszt's "Die Vätergruft" surely showed off the breadth and depth of his timbre as well as his keen dramatic instincts, as did Wolf's Michelangelo Lieder--both of which we have heard him sing before. Every word was appropriately colored; every gesture was motivated from within. 

Not that it is cheerful, but there was something about Mahler's "Urlicht" that touched us to a greater extent, especially when he shared with us why he was dedicating it to the memory of Jesse Norman. We are surely a fan of Mahler and had never heard Mr. Green perform any of Mahler's songs; this one seemed to us a perfect fit for his voice. The always wonderful collaborative pianist Ken Noda made much of the mysterious theme of the interlude after the first verse, a move which lightened the mood considerably.

We were held enraptured by his performance of Ferrando's aria in Verdi's Il Trovatore, as he told the backstory that always leaves the audience confused. The staccato section was particularly chilling. Mr. Green definitely knows how to tell a tale!

What we enjoyed most perhaps was the scene from Carlisle Floyd's Susannah in which the lustful Reverend Blitch tries to get the innocent young Susannah to confess her "sin" and pray. When she stands up for herself he rapes her (offstage, although there was a chilling scream) and then, having learned of her virginity, Blitch expresses shame and remorse. It wasn't Floyd's music which got to us; it was the intense and persuasive dramatic interaction between Mr. Green and soprano Latonia Moore.

Ms. Moore's instrument is a powerful one with overtones upon overtones. We have only heard Ms. Moore once before when she won a prize from the Licia Albanese Foundation with "Un bel di" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, a performance which left us in an altered state.

Her French songs were lovely, ranging from the exotic eroticism of Duparc's "L'invitation au voyage", supported by rippling figures in the piano, to the excitement of his "Le manoir de Rosamonde" with Mr. Noda's propulsive piano as a backdrop. A pair of songs by Roger Quilter were pleasant and her English diction made every word clear.

What excited us the most was the hopeless lament of a woman driven to madness; we are referring of course to "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" from Boito's Mefistofele, which offered Ms. Moore the opportunity to let out all the stops, both dramatically and vocally.

Furthermore, she made a persuasive case for the Countess Almaviva in "Dove sono" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. With expressive gestures and lovely legato phrasing, she conveyed a bereft state of mind with hints of hopefulness.

Her encore piece was "The Lord's Prayer" sung a capella.

Mr. Green's encore was the rueful "This Nearly was Mine" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. This gorgeous aria confirmed our belief that the American Musical is the true inheritor of the operatic tradition. Mr. Green announced his choice by saying it wasn't opera but his performance told us otherwise.

© meche kroop

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