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.

Sunday, January 21, 2024


 Maestro Chris Fecteau, Jonathan Harris, Clara Lisle, and Morton Cahn

Last night we felt transported back to the 19th c. when artists and their followers gathered around a piano and created music at home. We adore this manner of appreciating music up close and personal and have created many such salons in our own home. What a pleasure to not only hear artists perform but also to be able to socialize with them and other music lovers.

Our hostess for the evening was the lovely artist, mezzo-soprano, and cat-lover Barrett Cobb whose magnificent townhouse gave pleasurable stimulation to the eye. So many senses were involved--the ear, the eye, and tastebuds too, with food and drink courtesy of Maestro Chris Fecteau and his lovely wife Karen Rich, those good folks from Dell'Arte Opera Ensemble. The apt theme of the evening was "Among Friends".

The multi-talented Maestro, chef and connoisseur of wine, was our accompanist for the evening and the musical artists comprised soprano Clara Lisle, bass-baritone Jonathan Harris, and double bass player Morton Cahn. We were especially delighted that the artists introduced their selections and told a little about each one.

The beautiful Ms. Lisle opened the program with a very fine performance of Musetta's Act I aria from Puccini's La Bohême. All the vocal nuances and gestures were there resulting in a most believable performance, sans sets and sans costume.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Harris tackled a concert aria by Mozart, the ardent "Per questa bella mano" with Mr. Cahn performing the obligato. Mr. Harris does not lack for flexibility as demonstrated in some fine melismatic passages reminding one of a vocalise. He also deftly handled the wide leaps which Mozart often gave to his sopranos (i.e. Fiordiligi).

Ms. Lisle showed off some excellent German diction in a trio of songs by Hugo Wolf. We find Wolf's songs less accessible than those of Brahms, Schubert, and Schumann but not less interesting.. Our favorite of the three was "In dem Schatten mine Locken" from the composer's Spänischer Liederbuch. The warm and tender colors of Ms. Lisle's  voice were matched by Mo. Fecteau's piano.

The Allegro section of Bach's Sonata in G minor, written for viola da gamba, was given an attractive reading by Mr. Cahn.

Having recently heard an entire evening of Czech songs, our ears were quite ready for four folk songs set by Petr Eben, a Czech composer unknown to us. In spite of being composed in the 20th c. they are melodic as folk songs usually are and were charmingly sung by Mr. Harris. The final two were about abandoned women and it is to Mr. Harris' credit that he colored his voice differently for the  one who was in despair and the other one who was ready to move on to a new lover.

Mo. Fecteau gave a most expressive performance of a movement from A Novel composed by Ukrainian Sergei Bortkewiecz, also unknown to us.

Leonard Bernstein set a poem by Walt Whitman entitled "To What You Said" and we found it prosy and not very interesting. The vocal obligato was taken over by Mr. Cahn.

We far preferred the piano- bass duet entitled "Skipper's Call which was written by Ms. Cobb herself! We know what it's like to write music that you never get to hear performed so we shared in Ms. Cobb's joy upon hearing it for the first time.

Ms. Lisle performed "Le Chat" in fine French.  It was commissioned by Dell'Arte from Ellen Mandel. Mr. Harris had the audience in stitches with Libby Larsen's "The Apple Song". He picked up all the suggestive inferences and capped it all off by throwing off his coat. If you never heard this very American song, we urge you to Google the lyrics.

The program ended with Mendelssohn's melodic "Salve Regina" which allowed Ms. Lisle to show off her bright top notes. Mr. Harris performed one of Poulenc's non-ironic songs, the timely "Priez pour paix" in which Mo. Fecteau's piano echoed the contemplative mood.

It was a varied and altogether satisfying evening. We wish to alert you to some upcoming Dell'Arte events so--as they say--stay tuned!

© meche kroop 

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