Monday, September 22, 2014
Maestra Eve Queler and her fine Opera Orchestra of New York served as background to showcase five superlative singers, all of whom we would happily listen to over and over again.
The Opera Orchestra of New York has a long and venerable history in New York City, having presented over 100 operas in concert version and the Maestra has proven her worth, not only as a conductor, but as someone with a great ear for emerging stars.
Similarly, the Musicians Emergency Fund has a history going back to the Great Depression and has also brought talent to the public's attention.
The five singers could not have been better chosen, nor could their material which, in each case, served to highlight the singer's special skills. Let us begin with the sopranos. Everything sung by Rochelle Bard was nothing short of sensational. Her glamorous appearance served to augment her vocal skills as she portrayed the eponymous Tosca in Puccini's masterpiece. Her "Vissi d'arte" was deeply emotional and heart breaking.
In"Vivi,ingrato" from Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, her portrayal of an outraged and betrayed woman was so intense that the audience broke into wild applause before the cabaletta.
This versatile young artist showed off the most beautiful legato in "D'amor sull' ali rosee" from Verdi's Il Trovatore, which ended in a thrilling trill. As encore, she sang "The Vilja Song" from Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow.
Soprano Ashley Kerr showed off a gorgeous instrument and an impressive French style in "Depuis le jour" from Charpentier's Louise. She exhibited fine dynamic control and when she sang the word "delicieusement" we thought that was the perfect description of her manner of performing.
In an entirely different style, she sang Donna Anna's aria "Non mi dir" from Mozart's Don Giovanni; her fioriturawas just about perfect. In yet a different vein, she performed Musetta's aria "Quando m'en vo" from Puccini's La Boheme, always a great showpiece. And "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's Rusalka was another showstopper that revealed Ms. Kerr's seamless transitions throughout the registers.
Mezzo-soprano Shirin Eskandani turned in an excellent performance of "Non piu mesta" from Rossini's La Cenerentola; what made it a standout over other ones we have heard is that her fioritura seemed to emerge from deep within the generous character of the heroine, happy at last and ready to share her joy with everyone. And who wouldn't want to hear "Parto" from Mozart's La clemenza di Tito sung by such a talent. We wanted to hear more!
There wasn't a tenor onstage but we never missed it because the two male singers were so outstanding. Baritone Yunpeng Wang opened the program with "O Lisbon" from Donizetti's rarely heard Dom Sebastienwhich he sang in fine French, making every word clear, a great advantage since there were no translations. Mr. Wang has a most pleasing tonal quality and ample coloring as he shifted from longing to passionate outbursts.
From Verdi's La Traviata, his "Di Provenza il mar" was consummately persuasive, coming from a deep place of a father's anguish. The legato line was a delight and had us wondering whether Mr. Wang is the Verdi baritone we have been waiting for.
Bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana pleased us with one our favorite arias from Puccini's La Boheme. In"Vecchia zimarra", Colline is bidding farewell to the beloved overcoat he is about to pawn to raise money for the dying Mimi's medicine. He sang this with superb dynamic control and deeply felt grief.
In another mood entirely, his "Serenade" from Gounod's Faust employed the desirable word coloring that makes the devil so chilling. The "Ha, ha, ha, ha" made our hair stand on end.
His interpretation of Leporello's "Catalogue Aria" from Don Giovanni was original. We are accustomed to a Leporello who is sick and tired of his master's hijinx and humorously ironic in this aria. Mr. N. presented the character as serious, severe and nearly menacing. It was difficult to evaluate presented as a stand-alone but it was surely well sung.
The final work on the program comprised a duet between Mr. N. and Mr. Wang. "Suoni la tromba" from Bellini's I Puritani offers some delicious harmonies and long lyric phrases. The voices blended well and all that was missing was some connection between the two artists.
Maestra Queler led her orchestra as well as we have come to expect and we heard some lovely solos emerging from the orchestra. The wonderful thing about opera (well, ONE of the wonderful things) is that each time you hear an aria you hear something new. Yesterday, for us, it was some beautiful clarinet work in the "Parto".
To have so much talent onstage in one afternoon felt like an embarrassment of riches. But we are gluttons for pleasure. It was like the old adage about champagne--even if you have an excess, you can never have enough. And if you didn't leave this recital walking on air, you must have been wearing cement shoes!
MECHE KOOP'S REVIEW OF MEF CONCERT ON THE INTERNET
With Friends Like These...
Monday, September 23rd, 2013
The honorable Maestra Eve Queler was honored Sunday afternoon by the Musicians Emergency Fund in a thrilling recital involving her "family and friends". If you love hearing artists on the brink of stardom as much as we do, you were there and shared our joy in witnessing their well-deserved and enthusiastic applause.
The four rising stars, prize winners all, were soprano Sydney Mancasola, tenor Diego Silva, tenor John Viscardi and baritone Takaoki Onishi--all helped along their career pathway by Maestra Queler. Their performances yesterday indicated that they were each more than worthy of her attention.
The first half of the program was heavily weighted in the bel canto direction, to our delight. Mr. Onishi distinguished himself with his superb control of dynamics in "O Lisbona" from Donizetti's Don Sebastiano. Mr. Silva lent his sweet tenor to "A te, o cara" from I Puritani, spinning out Bellini's long gorgeous melodies with excellent phrasing. Ms. Mancasola showed a fine facility for French in arias from Massenet's Manon; her diamantine voice was focused and her acting convincing--this Manon truly conveyed the impression of abandon. Sticking with Massenet, Mr. Viscardi, with his warm sound and excellent French, gave a moving version of "Pourquoi me réveiller" from Werther
The only German aria on the program was Korngold's "Tanzlied" from Die Tote Stadt; Mr. Onishi demonstrated a facility with German as well as with the waltz rhythm. "Angelo casto e bel" from Donizetti's Il Duca d'Alba gave Mr. Silva an opportunity to show off his impressive Italianate quality. Ms. Mancasola returned with a deeply felt rendition of "O quante volte" from Bellini's I Capuleti ed i Montecchi; she set the air to vibrating in the receptive Alice Tully Hall. Mr. Viscardi brought this part of the program to a rousing close with Offenbach's Kleinzach song from Les Contes d'Hoffman.
But no, it was not over yet! Ms. Queler's daughter Liz came onstage with her husband Seth Farber and their son Joey. The audience was treated to three selections from a project of theirs entitled The Edna Project in which they set poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay with Mr. Farber playing a jazzy piano score, Liz Q. playing guitar and mandolin with a folky flavor and young Joey providing the rhythm. It was an unexpected treat, particularly since the music and words supported each other to an impressive extent. This is not something we hear often in contemporary music. We were delighted with the three-part harmony. If only every American family could make music like this!
The second half of the program was devoted primarily to Verdi. Mr. Onishi's "Per me giunto...O Carlo, ascolta" was performed with enough baritonal heft that we can readily see him as the next Verdi baritone, which, in our eyes, is far more important than being a "barihunk", although the handsome Mr. Onishi readily qualifies for that designation as well. Four selections from Rigoletto followed and Mr. Viscardi made a fine arrogant Duke, causing the audience to go wild. Ms. Mancasola made a lovely Gilda and negotiated the tricky upward leaps, trills and fioritura of "Caro nome" with consummate aplomb. In her duet with Mr Silva, the two of them had a touching chemistry and ear-pleasing vocal blending.
Ending the program with Bizet's "Au fond du temple saint" from Les Pêcheurs de Perles was a masterstroke; Mr. Silva and Mr. Onishi made a fine pair. But the concert was not yet over! All the singers joined for "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata and we left Alice Tull Hall ready to toast to pleasure in all its forms.
© meche kroop