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.

Thursday, May 11, 2023


 Honoree Adam Guettel and 2023 Award Rccipients

Career Bridges has been providing assistance to young opera singers for 19 years, far longer than we have been writing about them. Career Bridges provides mentoring, support, and performance opportunities to singers at the early stages of their careers, assistance lasting for three years, bridging the period between education and professional life.  Co-Founders David Schuyler Bender and his lovely wife Barbara Meister Bender are unique in being a beautiful "power couple" who are busy putting good into the world. Their goals are consonant with our own and we are proud and pleased to spread the word.

Tuesday night we were thrilled to be in attendance at this year's gala, held at 
The Metropolitan Club. Guests comprised not only luminaries of the opera world, donors who fund the program, and a number of voice students who no doubt hope to have Career Bridges' help in their future.

Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award was Joan Dornemann, famed vocal coach and Artistic Director of The International Vocal Arts Institute (of which we are a great fan). Many of us know her from her work at The Metropolitan Opera. We recall first meeting her as she conducted a coaching of Olga Makarina for her role as Mimi. Hearing her speak about getting her start as a prompter was most engaging.

Honored with a Distinguished Achievement Award was composer/lyricist/teacher Adam Guettel whose 2005 musical Light in the Piazza has remained in our memory. His projects are many and eagerly anticipated.

The young singers, accompanied by Musical Director Ted Taylor, were of uniformly high quality. Strangely there was only one male but we will put the ladies first. Let's begin with the sopranos, of which there were eight. They were all excellent in the same way--polished performers whose vocal technique was notable. If some of them sounded too much like each other, they will soon develop their own individual colors. That's what advanced training accomplishes.

Natalia Gonzalez-Santaliz performed "Chacun le sait" from Donizetti's La fille du regiment with a bright perky sound,  making a fine Marie. Seongeun Park made a lovely Nanetta, impressing us with her trill in "Sul fil d'un soffio etesio" from Verdi's Falstaff. Abigail Raiford exhibited the requisite bell-like tones in "Ou va la jeune Hindoue" from Delibes' Lakmé. We enjoyed the precision in  the affecting upper register of the devilishly difficult "O zittre nicht" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, performed by Kira Kaplan.

Other sopranos chose arias that showed off voices with a bit more heft. We are not familiar with Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar' Bride but Hana Lobel-Torres sang the aria "Ivan Gergeitch" with an interesting vibrato and texture. The same could be said for Kristin Gillis' performance of "Glück, das mir verblieb" from Korngold's Die tote Stadt, which she made her own. 

The huge but flexible soprano of Marieke de Koker was just right for "Tacea la notte placida" from Verdi's Il Trovatore. This stunning performance was a bonus and not in the program. We wouldn't have missed it for the world.

We also liked the mezzo-sopranos and their choice of material. Maggie Renée gave a highly dramatic performance of the witch's aria from Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, calling to mind Jamie Barton's Jezibaba in Dvorak's Russalka. (It's so much fun to perform evil characters!)  Junyue Gong's Carmen benefitted from good pacing and a sense of time and place in the "Seguidilla". "O ma lyre immortelle" from Gounod's Sapho was sung with deep feeling by Chelsea Laggan. Tackling some Wagner was Shanley Horvitz, singing "Geliebter! Komm' sieh' dort die Grotte" from Tannhaüser. We liked her German and the seductive quality.

Our sole male voice belonged to baritone Kevin Godinez who gave Ford's aria "È sogno? O realtà" from Falstaff an excellent reading. The evening ended with Mr. Godinez leading the ensemble in a rousing performance of  "The Impossible Dream" from Leigh's Man of La Mancha. This choice was rather ironic since it seems to us that the night' young artists have possible dreams, made possible by Career Bridges.

Let us not forget to share one final performance--that of Meghan Picerno who sang one of our favorite arias--"Glitter and Be Gay" from Bernstein's Candide, a marvelous work that has been fought over by both Broadway camp and opera camp. We call it an opera.

© meche kroop

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