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, December 23, 2019


Talents of the World at Zankel Hall of Carnegie Hall

Talents of the World has been promoting the classical vocal repertoire since 2002 but only began their Annual International Voice Competition recently with three successful competitions so far. Their World Festival at Carnegie Hall began last year, a festival we enjoyed so much that we put this year's festival on our calendar the day it was announced. Perhaps you have read our review of their "Three Tenors" recital a few days ago.

Imagine filling up Zankel Hall during your second year! The word had gotten out and the hall was filled with those who love serious vocal music. Of course, it being Christmas season, there were plenty of Christmas songs on the generous program, which kept us entertained for nearly three hours. Songs are good if they are tuneful and well sung, no matter the genre.

Because we are so eager to support young talent, let us begin with the young artists to whom we were introduced at the competition earlier this month. We were overjoyed to get another chance to hear soprano Alina Tamborini perform "Adele's Audition Aria" from Johann Strauss' light-hearted operetta Die Fledermaus. We have attended coachings of this aria and we can tell you that Ms. Tamborini needs no coaching. 

Everything was perfect from her sparkly stage presence, to her vocal technique, to her humorous acting. Every gesture and facial expression seemed spontaneous, belying the hard work that must have gone into it. It is truly her "signature piece", offering opportunities for impressive handling of the fioritura--leaps and trills aplenty! It was sung in English with successful enunciation; none of the clever lines were blurred.

Another upcoming superstar is soprano Sooyeon Kang, whose performance of "Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss" was a perfect choice, highlighting her expressive phrasing, pure tone, and fine German diction. We could understand the words, even in the upper register where her voice blooms with beauty.

Baritone Bryan Murray has been winning competitions as if he were gathering flowers; we were there for most of them. He pleases the judges as successfully as he pleases the audience. His Figaro is a knockout! Just when we thought we'd seen the ultimate "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, along came Mr. Murray with a few interesting gestures and sensational aptitude for the patter section.

Mr. Murray has remarkable stage presence as well as a full Italianate tone. As he strode the stage with the confidence of a, well, a Figaro, he was completely convincing.

Last night was our introduction to a terrific tenor, Joel Ricci. It is rare to find a young tenor who is confident enough not to push his voice. Mr. Ricci sings with ease, allowing us to relax into his warm sound without protecting our sympathetic throat from aching. With no setting or costumes, his voice created the garrett scene in which he meets Mimi in "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Bohême. 

The dynamic variety and Italianate phrasing were lovely and served him in good stead when Mimi, portrayed by soprano Maria Vetere, joined her Rodolfo in a very convincing flirtation. "O Soave Fanciulla" was so romantic and tender we could fall in love ourself! Mr. Ricci was on the make and Ms. Vetere was rather resistant. From where did she get her willpower!

Another highlight of the evening was getting to hear President and Founder of Talents of the World David Gvinianidze singing the Russian romance "Chrysanthemums" by N.Harito. He has a lovely rounded baritone sound and a soulful interpretation that entranced us, although we have no idea what the text was about. What impressed us the most was the way he spun out a pianissimo like a silken thread.

Our host for the evening and Director of Talents of the World, Olga Lisovskaya, had us on the edge of our seat with "O Luce di Quest'Anima" from Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix. She possesses a formidable instrument of great beauty and impressive coloratura technique, including a trill to kill.

Bass Zachary James, on loan from The Metropolitan Opera has a kingly sound that was just right for King Arthur's aria "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Lerner and Loewe's Camelot.

Baritone Gocha Abuladze has a substantial instrument with an appealing texture. We would have enjoyed his performance more if he had inflected his various arias with some variety. There was not much difference between his Don Giovanni and his Escamillo.

There were several glamorous sopranos on the program beside Ms. Lisovskaya. If no one sang we might have considered the evening a fashion show. Maria Maksakova sang the aria Lady Macbeth sings at the banquet; it was not listed on the program but her voice was just right for Verdi as it was for Dvorak's "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka. The audience loved her spirited "Russian Gypsy Romances". 

Petite Lyudmila Fesenko produced a sizeable sound in Dunayevsky's "Zazdravnaya". The aforementioned Ms. Vetere conveyed all of Aida's grief in "O Cieli Azzurri" with a particularly heart-rending "Mai piu". Anni Kolkhida sang Lara's "Granada" in superb Spanish with generous sound. 

We would like to point out here that the female singers utilizing the "tag team" approach that we heard at the Three Tenors concert a couple days ago were far more successful than the men. Several sopranos who "could have danced all night" in  Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady enhanced each other with cooperation instead of competition.

They also joined Ms. Lisovskaya for the sweet "Ding Dong Merrily on High" by Tabourot. Everyone joined in for "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata and also for our favorite Christmas piece--Leontovych's "Carol of the Bells, much enhanced by the piano.

There were three excellent pianists for the evening--Stanislav Serebriannikov, Vera Danchenko-Stern, and Victoria Ulanovskaya--and a lovely violinist Sofia Khurtsilava. There was also a quartet of male dancers, one of whom dropped to a split in front of a glass of wine, proceeded to lift it in his teeth, and then drink it. Now that's something one doesn't see every day!

Aprile Millo was the special guest and sang two Georgian songs--"Do Not Sing to Me" which she dedicated to the late and much missed Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Rachmaninov's "Spring Waters". Our guest for the evening had heard Ms. Millo in her prime and found her voice to still be beautiful. But we cannot tell a lie. A singer who buries her nose in the score does not touch us at all. There was absolutely no connection and we found ourself focusing on the piano, which is what we usually do when the singer doesn't connect.

Nonetheless, by all accounts, it was a splendid evening! 

© meche kroop

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