Sunday, June 2, 2024



Ashley Galvani Bell, Victor Starsky, Tatev Baroyan, Maestro Joseph Rescigno, Irina Rindzuner, Todd Thomas, and Woo Young Yoon

What a grand night for singing! Last night was the centenary of the death of Giacomo Puccini. What a grand way to celebrate his life and his 42 year career of composing some of the world's best loved operas! The crowd filled Bryant Park from end to end and side to side. We would be surprised if anyone noticed that we were sitting in a canyon of skyscrapers. We would be delighted to learn that some members of the audience were new to opera and became converts. 

If they did, perhaps they were enchanted by Puccini's melodic vocal lines or perhaps it was the quality of the singing (although difficult for our ears to appreciate due to electronic amplification, necessary because of the venue). What we mostly appreciated was the fact that there were representative arias (or duets, or ensembles) from every single opera the master ever wrote--performed in chronological order so that one might appreciate his evolution over a period of four decades. It was an interesting novelty for which we thank the venerable New York City Opera .

The program began with an ensemble from Puccini's 1884 Le Villi, which we had never heard. Similarly, an aria from Edgar, performed by stellar soprano 
Ashley Galvani Bell, was new to our ears. One definitely got a sense of a major compositional artist in the making and Puccini needed only a fine librettist to make a major impact.

We very much appreciated being introduced to two singers we had not heard before. Dramatic soprano Irina Rindzuner  made a fine Manon and a powerful Tosca. Even better was her Minnie in the tension driven card game scene from La fanciulla del West. Her Jack Rance was played by baritone Todd Thomas who was as chilling as he was singing Scarpia in the Tosca.

What we appreciated even more was reconnecting with artists whose earliest years were noted and admired by us. For example, the sweet lyric tenor of Woo Young Yoon first impressed us nine years ago when he was a student at Manhattan School of Music. We noted his artistry not too long thereafter in a master class with Prelude to Performance when he dazzled us with his Rodolfo.  How fitting that he sang the first act duet from La Bohême with Ms. Bell, whom we will get to shortly. That is truly his signature role, leading to an award from Opera Index. We also heard his award winning performance of some Mozart and Donizetti at a Marcella Sembrich competition. What a great pleasure to witness his artistic development!

We have similar feelings for Ms. Bell. We became acquainted with her artistry through a number of productions by Divaria Productions, every one of which was unique and elicited different aspects of her artistry. Her performance of "Un bel di" last night recalled her performance of Cio-Cio San with New York Opera Collaborative in which she appeared in full Japanese dress. Her involvement in the role has only gotten deeper.

Similarly, we have witnessed Victor Starsky's artistic development since 2015 when he sang Don Jose with New York Opera Exchange and later when he sang Rodolfo with Bare Opera, a role he revisited recently at a gala. Last night he let out all the stops in "Nessun dorma" from Turandot. These moments are precious to us. Future engagement will be even more so!

Soprano Tatev Baroyan has been on our radar for a short period of time. Just a month ago at the Gerda Lissner Award Recital, we noted her fine performance of Liu's aria from Turandot, the same aria she performed last night. It was quite affecting and we hope to hear it again soon (unamplified). 

It was a most successful evening and we are already looking forward to NYCO's production of a fully staged Tosca in Bryant Park on August 23rd and 24th. 

© meche kroop

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