Opera Index Honors Dolora Zajick at Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner

Met Mezzo Honoree Delora Zajick & Met Mezzo & Opera Index President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano
Met Mezzo Honoree Delora Zajick &
Met Mezzo & Opera Index President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano

On Sunday, January 17th, Opera Index held its Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner at the JW Marriott Essex House in New York City. The great mezzo soprano, Dolora Zajick was the honored guest. An operatic recital of the 2015 Opera Index Award Winners was also presented. Jane Shaulis, who is a mezzo soprano with the Metropolitan Opera and the new President of Opera Index, enthusiastically hosted this lively production. In her introductory remarks, Ms. Shaulis announced the donations by Opera Index towards the scholarships for the young promising singers and the great pride she has as a performer in helping these talented awardees attain their goals. After hors d’oeuvres and libations the crowd of several hundred went into the glittering dining room for dinner and the operatic recital.

The gifted pianist Michael Fennelly accompanied the singers with dexterity and precision.

Jerry Stolt, Midge Woolsey, Nino Pantano & Stephen De Maio Photo by Judy Pantano
Jerry Stolt, Midge Woolsey, Nino Pantano
& Stephen De Maio
Photo by Judy Pantano

Susannah Biller sang “Ah! Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliette. Ms. Biller possesses a sparkling coloratura soprano and sang an eager, ardent and fearless performance with dazzling agility and fully captured Juliette’s adolescent liberation. Ms. Biller’s high note near the finale was projected into space like Cupid’s arrow. She held the final note as if embracing her Romeo.

Samantha Hankey regaled us with “Allez, laissez-moi seul” from Cendrillon by Massenet. Ms. Hankey is the caretaker of a warm and luscious mezzo and captured the French style. Her sound caresses and comforts and her vocal palette offers flowing tones and many colors.

Jonas Hacker offered “Una furtive lagrima” from Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore.” Mr. Hacker is the landlord of a fine tenor voice and is now harvesting and displaying his years of planting. Hacker’s voice has a strong even quality, is manly and straightforward, with a good diminuendo and an excellent cadenza at the finale.

Bottom-Jane Shaulis, Michael Fennelly, Susannah Biller, Delora Zajick, Will Liverman Top-Megan Marino, Samantha Hankey, Jonas Hacker & Siman Chung Photo by Judy Pantano
Bottom-Jane Shaulis, Michael Fennelly, Susannah Biller, Delora Zajick, Will Liverman
Top-Megan Marino, Samantha Hankey, Jonas Hacker & Siman Chung
Photo by Judy Pantano

Megan Marino, mezzo soprano and Will Liverman, baritone sang “Dunque io son” from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with wit and elan. Ms. Marino, a feisty, clever Rosina flew through the cadenzas and scales with abandon. Mr. Liverman showed Figaro’s quicksilver mind with vocal fireworks. Both of their flights into the vocal stratosphere were thrilling! It was truly a fun ride and the audience had a good time!

Siman Chung sang “Di tanti palpiti” from Rossini’s Tancredi. His countertenor was never false, in full bloom and he sang this melodic air with excellent diminuendos, strong fioratura and uncommon elegance.

Lastly, Will Liverman sang Gryaznoy’s aria from the Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov in Russian as if he was Russian born. Liverman used this showpiece with its high notes, robust lows and dramatic utterance to showcase his extraordinary voice and splendid vocal gifts. He is from Chicago and is the premier Lissner Charitable Fund award winner which was presented by Karl Michaelis.

Karl Michaelis - Photo by Judy Patano
Karl Michaelis
Photo by Judy Patano

The award ceremony followed with each singer receiving their well-deserved awards. Matthew Epstein Artistic director, Artist manager and consultant whose 40 year career has been vital to the opera world, was the presenter to Dolora Zajick. Mr. Epstein spoke eloquently of her powerhouse performances, humanity and humor and as a legend in her own time.

Ms. Zajick graciously accepted the gift and in a humorous and joyful talk enraptured us all. She told the audience of some memorable performances especially one where the tenor’s wig caught fire in Il Trovatore and another from Rusalka where an artificial cat failed to comply and was thrown in her witches brew! Ms. Zajick has been wowing them at the Metropolitan Opera and all over the world since 1988. Brooklyn can never forget her glorious Santuzza at the Regina Opera circa 1980. Ms. Zajick is happy to have her own organization, The Institute for Young Dramatic Voices in Orem, Utah to help aspiring singers. Dolora Zajick said “I can still deliver the goods” and she sure can – brava!

Nino Pantano, Stefano Acunto, Linda Howes, Carole Acunto & Stepehen Phebus Photo by Judy Pantano
Nino Pantano, Stefano Acunto, Linda Howes,
Carole Acunto & Stepehen Phebus
Photo by Judy Pantano

We sat at the table of Stephen De Maio, President of the Gerda Lissner Foundation with Eve Queler conductor, Robert Lombardo vocal agent, Will Liverman baritone, Gloria Gari (Giulio Gari Foundation) presenter Joyce Greenberg, patron presenter, Karl Michaelis and Michael Fornabaio. It was a pleasure to meet and greet PBS’ Midge Woolsey and husband economist Jerry Stolt, Italian Vice Consul and Commendatore Stefano Acunto and wife Carole, President Sachi Liebergesell from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, jewelry appraiser Mark Bunda, General Counsel Brian O’Connor Esq. and wife Maura, who reminisced about their recent trip to Sicily, Duane Printz from Teatro Grattacielo, Bill Ronayne from the Mario Lanza Foundation located in Brooklyn. Also present were famed legendary sopranos Elinor Ross, Lucine Amara, Elaine Malbin (Brooklyn’s own) and mezzo soprano Rosalyn Elias. What a joy to greet Dagmar Tamura, wife of the rising Met Opera tenor Ricardo Tamura who was rehearsing for his forthcoming Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana at the Metropolitan Opera.

What fun to chat with Opera Index Treasurer Murray Rosenthal and Vice Presidents Philip Hagemann and Janet Stovin and family, Board member John David Metcalfe, sponsor Doris Keeley, poet and patron Cavaliere Edward Jackson, composer Stephen Phebus and wife Linda Howes, Ken Benson radio host, vocal agent and erudite Brooklynite. Presenters were the ever dapper tenor Cesare Santeramo and Dr. Robert Campbell and Met comprimario tenor Anthony Laciura and wife Joelle, all of whom were a vital part of the festivities.

When I was a youngster in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and an aspiring opera singer (The boy Caruso of Brooklyn), with no one to guide my career, I would be in a room listening to Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra on the radio, my head pressed to the speakers, while everyone else was listening to rock and roll. Now, decades later, I found my “comfort zone” in supporting this great art form and encouraging others to do so by giving a “push” in the right direction for gifted young potentially great singers of the future. Bravo – Opera Index, Jane Shaulis and Joe Gasperec, the dynamic duo who made this magnificent event possible!

When we left this elegant room it was snowing outside-the first flakes of winter. To Judy and I, it was like the confectionery sugar sprinkled atop the pastries at our local Italian bakery. How sweet it was and bravi to all!

Prospect Heights Resident and New York City Opera Legend, Don Yule Passes Away

MEISTERSINGER. Photo credit, Beth Bergman
Meistersinger – Photo credit, Beth Bergman

Don Yule was born in Enid, Oklahoma on January, 21st, 1935 and passed away in Brooklyn, N.Y. on July 3, 2015. He was born Donnie Elton Yule to Dr. Arthur Harry Yule and Izell Warren Yule. </br>
He was a popular member of New York City Opera for more than fifty years and a talented artist. Yule was considered an essential part of the core company, participating in more than a thousand performances. He studied Music Performance at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Don Yule began his career with New York City Opera as a bass in the chorus in 1960 and later as a comprimario artist. His talent as a character actor was discernible from the start. He debuted as Gluttony in Six Characters in Search of an Author, starring Beverly Sills and the orchestra conducted by General Director Julius Rudel. Yule sang in several languages, including Italian, French and Russian. His roles also varied, from comedy to drama. He played both the drunken landlord Benoit and the thwarted lover Alcindoro, in La Boheme and the sinister jailer in Tosca. His most memorable roles were that of the emperor in Turandot and multiple parts in Candide.

While on tour with New York City Opera, Yule performed in Los Angeles; Saratoga, N.Y.; and the upper Northeast and Midwest of the U.S., as well as in countries such as Taiwan and Japan. Yule also performed in New York City Opera’s summer musicals and in Gilbert and Sullivan at the City Center of Music.(The Mikado being one of his favorite roles).

Marriage of Figaro - Photo credit, Beth Bergman
Marriage of Figaro – Photo credit, Beth Bergman

Earlier in his career, Yule performed at Town and Country Musicals in East Rochester, N.Y., where he met his first wife, Christine Chernis Brandt.

He sang with Turnau Opera in Woodstock, N.Y. and Sarasota, Fla. His roles included Colline in La Boheme and Collatinus in The Rape of Lucretia. He also performed with Central City Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Don Yule was the President of the American Guild of Musical Artists for five years. It is a labor organization that represents the men and women who create America’s operatic, choral and dance heritage.

During his second marriage, to Jaye Adams, Yule resided in Brooklyn, N.Y., with their son Seth. One of Don’s hobbies was collecting and repairing antique clocks and he found a kindred spirit in Aldo Mancusi from the Enrico Caruso Museum of America which Don visited. Don was an avid collector of music-related classical treasures. His collection included antique Victrola’s and rare operatic recordings that he loved to share with his colleagues.

Yule often donated performances with Maestro Vincent La Selva’s New York Grand Opera in Central Park, at The Brooklyn Academy of Music with The Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn’s Regina Opera Company. Many young singers from both the United States and abroad got a grounding in the American classical tradition with these wonderful companies. Yule shared his wisdom and knowledge of musical history with grateful newcomers and assisted them in establishing themselves here. Every summer he and other veteran singers enabled novices to garner their first reviews by singing with them as part of their presentations. During his long and busy career, Yule also sang in several New York City churches and synagogues.

Nine Rivers from Jordan, Photo credit - Beth Bergman
Nine Rivers from Jordan, Photo credit – Beth Bergman

Of interest, Yule was a third cousin on his father’s side to Mickey Rooney, whose birth name was Joe Yule.

Don Yule is survived by his son, Seth, and two former wives, Jaye Adams of Palm Beach, Fla., and Christine Chernis Brandt of Asheville, N.C.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be donated in Don Yule’s memory to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, c/o the IU Foundation, P.O Box 500, Bloomington, IN 47402.

“The Little Church Around the Corner” Presents a Memorable “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

Brittany Fowler (Mother) Carlos Tapia (Amahl) Jake Ingbar (King Melchior) Daniel Neer (King Kaspar) Alexis Cordero (The Page) & Charles Samuel Brown (King Balthazar) Photo by Marcello Pantano
Brittany Fowler (Mother), Carlos Tapia (Amahl), Jake Ingbar (King Melchior), Daniel Neer (King Kaspar), Alexis Cordero (The Page), Charles Samuel Brown (King Balthazar) Photo by Marcello Pantano

On the evening of Friday, December 18th, “The Little Church Around the Corner” founded in 1848 so named because where another local Church refused to bury an actor, his friend was told, “There is a little church around the corner that will” thus becoming a favorite of theatre folk since. The Church of the Transfiguration on East 29th Street in New York City, now a National Landmark, presented the Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) classic Christmas opera of “Amahl & the Night Visitors.”

We saw this wonderful hour long presentation several times at The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with our late good friend and former New York City Opera basso Don Yule as King Balthazar. We had the honor of meeting Gian Carlo Menotti, the composer who was present at that performance.

Menotti was commissioned in 1951 to write an opera for NBC TV television by its President David Sarnoff and Producer Samuel Chotzinoff. Menotti could not think of what to write but one day while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC he chanced to see the painting “The Adoration of the Magi” by Hieronymus Bosch with the three kings visiting the Christ child. He recalled his own childhood memories in Italy when he and his brother would wait until they fell asleep for the three kings to visit their home bearing gifts for Christmas. At that moment, Menotti knew what his opera would be. The first showing on Christmas Eve television in 1951 was viewed by an estimated 5 million people scored a tremendous hit and it was repeated for years afterwards. Now it is done in churches worldwide and audiences never fail to be touched by this musical tale of a mischievous crippled boy Amahl, his mother, their simplicity and poverty and their special royal visitors who have come for a place to stay on their journey and who witness a miracle when Amahl offers his crutch as a gift to the Child.

The program was in two parts. The first part was “A Ceremony of Carols” by British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) sung by The Transfiguration Choir of Men and Boys, Girls Choir and Camerata. (A small chamber orchestra or choir- in this instance 42 choir members and 15 musicians.)

The procession down the aisle into the Church was impressive as the choristers walked to the main altar. There were ten carols sung, all brief and haunting. Britten had his own musical recipe and while not really melodic or atonal; his music is in another heavenly sphere, evoking his “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The chorus was a beautiful blend and in “That yonge child” Richard Jimenez boy-treble-soprano, was sweet and impressive. In “Balulalow” Mario Hall, boy-treble soprano was haunting and radiant. Kathryn Andrews was magical in her harp interlude. In “Freezing winter night” Lesley Zlabinger’s soprano soared with Joe Redd and in “Deo Gracias” one could almost hear a similarity to Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” “Spring Carol” offered Lauren Breen and Sole Trinidad as soloists.

All of the singers were impressive and were a heavenly blend. Multi-cultural young and older singers woven together by the genius of conductor, organist and conductor Claudia Dumschat.

After a brief intermission with one and all marveling at the beauty of this Christmas decorated church with its wooden panels, Christmas greenery and Virgin mother grotto, beloved of actors, it was time to see Amahl complete in this Church for the first time and not just excerpts as had been done in the past.

The excellent 15 piece orchestra under the skilled baton of Claudia Dumschat began with the haunting prelude.

Conductor Claudia Dumschat
Conductor Claudia Dumschat

The mother was portrayed and sung by Brittany Fowler whose luscious mezzo soprano illuminated the stage with her duets with Amahl and the cherished “All that gold!” which was sung with the passion of a Puccini heroine. Ms. Fowler’s diction was crisp and clear and her impact on the audience was vivid and visceral.

Amahl was in the adorable hands of boy treble – soprano Carlos Tapia a 6th grader at Mt. Carmel Holy Rosary School. His poignant “Don’t cry Mother dear” and “I was a shepherd” were indelible and “Look, Mother, I can dance” was joyous, his acting exemplary. Carlos Tapia gave a strong portrayal of a crippled boy whose inherent goodness and curiosity made him a symbol of indomitable virtues worthy of a miracle. He was unforgettable.

King Melchior was in the able hands of Jake Ingbar whose robust baritone made him part of the trio blend including the rich sonorous basso of Charles Samuel Brown as King Balthazar and the flexible tenor of Daniel Neer as King Kaspar whose comic singing of “This is my box” captivated all. “Have you seen a child?” is the trio blend that enters one’s soul and just won’t go away. They scored a triune triumph! The Shepherd’s Song, “Emily, Michael, Bartholomew” was sung at the side aisle of the church with the shepherds, and Amahl’s mother with the Three Kings was another highlight.

Alexis Cordero as the Page who discovers Amahl’s mother’s attempt to take a piece of gold “For my child” is 16 years old and in the 11th grade at Norman Thomas High School. He sang in a robust bass and took Amahl’s blows well for “Please don’t hurt my Mother.”

The marvelous dancers, summoned to Amahl’s house were Ambar and Charles Rosario. They danced at the side of the interior of the church as did the peasant dancers Olivia Brett, Adriana Hall and Bianca Hall. The finale with the now cured Amahl, walking normally, leaving with the wise men and Page on their journey is as delicate as a Christmas ornament and we thank all responsible for giving us this Menotti moment of magic!

Special kudos to costume designer Terri Bush whose varied creations from the majestic colorful robes of the kings to the simple peasant attire was perfection.

Choreographer Robert Hampton did a wonderful job in utilizing this space making the dancers up front and closer to the audience.

Betty Howe, Stage Manager who knows how to balance both space and place so that one can properly face the action and be part of it.

Richard Olson, Director who had the Herculean task of making the boundaries of the Church wider and using the aisles to allow the principals to move and dance freely. The simple bench at the altar where the wise men sat and Kaspar’s bird cage and a blanket were all one needed to create the world of both majesty and poverty.

This Arnold Schwartz Candlelight Memorial Concert would have surely not been possible without the special genius of Claudia Dumschat and additional thanks to the Right Reverend Andrew R. St. John, Rector who greeted the standing room only audience warmly.

The reception following for one and all was in the common room where we had a chance to eat and drink, meet and greet friends and performers one of whom, pianist Michael Pilafian, we recognized from Maestro Vincent La Selva’s New York Grand Opera. What a beautiful way for my wife Judy and I and family to celebrate the Christmas season. We look forward to next year’s performance!

Brooklyn’s Casa Duse Presents Fall Music Festival

Left - Ben Chavez, Monet Sabel, Matthew Stoke & Jenisa de Castro Right - Robert Krakovski, Michele Ivey, Austin Davidson & Mark T Evans Photo by Judy Pantano
Left – Ben Chavez, Monet Sabel, Matthew Stoke & Jenisa de Castro Right – Robert Krakovski, Michele Ivey, Austin Davidson & Mark T Evans, Photo by Judy Pantano

On the evening of Saturday, December 5th we were revitalized to be present at the Casa Duse Supper Club’s enticing new series of a “Fall Festival of Music” in conjunction with the “New Place Players” a month of extraordinary music, wine and food to welcome the holidays! The Casa Duse Supper Club is located at 16 Prospect Park West in Park Slope in a 19th century townhouse named after the legendary Italian actress Eleanora Duse. (1858-1924) It was so named because of its late former owner Duse’s godson, Michael Waldron and the spirit of Duse he embodied. The walls of this charming dwelling are filled with signed photos of Duse, Stanislavsky, Olivier, Gielgud, Barrymore, as well as soprano divas; the imperial Zinka Milanov, legendary Joan Sutherland, great tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the “king” of tenors Enrico Caruso and many other opera and theater immortals. Joan Sutherland and her husband conductor Richard Bonynge occupied the Casa Duse for years as guests of Martin Waldron during their seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. When Martin Waldron passed away in 2009,our affable host Robert Krakovski started the Casa Duse Collective parlor salon, to honor and perpetuate his mentor and keep his spirit alive.

The truly unique intimacy of an event at Casa Duse and its rich history in itself makes for a memorable night. Whether a New Place Players gourmet Shakespeare salon under the brilliant stewardship of Craig Bacon, or live music by world class artists in the living room of the historic home across from Prospect Park, the experience is magical!

Ben Chavez a talented young man from New Jersey did a show entitled “Out of NYU, Paying DUSE! A tribute to Mentors and Musical Inspiration!” Back by popular demand, this affable and talented rising star offered us a feast of standards, pop sounds and original compositions.

The first part found the gifted Ben Chavez at the piano evoking memories of Hildegarde, Liberace, Nat “King” Cole and others who charmed past generations with piano and song. Chavez offered us generous portions of Bill Joel including a wonderful “New York State of Mind.”

In his reflective banter, Chavez revealed that one of the things he learned is the tragedy of leaving life “not to have given enough of ourselves.” Indeed in some of his jazz selections his concentration almost transformed the music into an intimate Scarlatti piece.

Looking around the room, twenty or so tables, each with a red rose, young faces eager, enthusiastic and joyful, made for a perfect Saturday night.

Chavez regaled his audience with “Sometimes it takes a while” and “Just the way you are.” He then discussed some of Frank Sinatra’s influence and Ray Charles’ “A baby grand-all it takes is the power of my hands.”

Then “You all rise up with your hands-make a joyful noise, rise up” and “I was ready for someone to hold me-Love to the rescue again.” His superb backup singers were sopranos Monet Sabel and Jenisa de Castro and the tenor of Matthew Stoke. A perfect blend-each worthy of solo careers!

After a brief intermission, the second part of the program opened with one of my all-time favorite Spanish songs, “Amapola.” Chavez commented that he heard it sung by Andrea Bocelli. This love song goes way back to legendary tenors Tito Schipa, Jan Peerce and the great Alfredo Krauss. It was also a “pop” hit in the 1940’s. Chavez, whose pleasing baritone proved itself worthy of this genre, was accompanied on the piano for part two by Mark T Evans whose wonderful pianistic virtuosity evoked the colors of Debussy.

This was followed by” Fabrizio’s love song” from the musical “Light in the Piazza” a Lincoln Center hit a few years ago. Chavez, who is also a noted composer, admired this work by Adam Guettel, who is the grandson of the great Richard Rogers.

A charming duet followed titled “Something Stupid” with Michele Ivey. This was a big hit with Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy in the 1950’s. Ms. Ivey’s sumptuous soprano tapered its size for this perky novelty.

A Gershwin medley included a heartfelt “Embraceable You.” Chavez also did a bit of tap dancing to an old Fred Astaire tune with his many fans cheering. Chavez’s finale was a Sesame Street (Elmo) Christmas song that he recalled from his youth. “Think of the day, when Christmas has gone away” reassuring the children that Christmas is a moveable feast!

Another encore was “I’ll be seeing you” with a wonderful  high note and pianissimo finale. This sentimental song was Liberace’s closing theme song. Actor-singer Austin Davidson in a brief duet with Chavez, rounded out the potpourri of talent that made this evening so special!

The elegant host-producer Robert Krakovski who is the true spirit of Martin Waldron, who reigned at the Casa Duse for 50 years, had reason to smile as did the ghosts of the great artists photos on the wall, because the Casa Duse is alive and keeping the spirit as in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” past, present and future.”

Future programs are:

Friday Dec. 11th – at 6:30pm Emirhan Tunca & Andrew Sun-Cello & Piano Duo

Sat. Dec. 12th – at 6:30pm Latin & Jazz Cabaret with Horacio Martinez & Friends

Sat. Dec. 19th – 6:30pm Theresa Kloos & David Raimo “Christmas in New York”

Sun. Dec. 20th – 6:30PM Jazz Sunday with the Sam Dillon Trio

For tickets & information visit: www.16casaduse.com

Regina Opera presents an outstanding “The Merry Widow”

The Widow Anna Glawari (Christina Rohm, left) and Count Danilo (Peter Hakjoon Kim, right) halfheartedly perform the Petrovanian national dance. Photo by George Schowerer
The Widow Anna Glawari (Christina Rohm, left) and Count Danilo (Peter Hakjoon Kim, right) halfheartedly perform the Petrovanian national dance. Photo by Elena Sandella

On the afternoon of Saturday, November 21st, the theater at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy of Brooklyn in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, was transformed into the Petrovenian Embassy for the Regina Opera’s first production of their 46th season. “The Merry Widow” composed by Austrian-Hungarian Franz Lehár (1870-1948) was an instant worldwide hit since its debut in 1905.

Brooklyn’s Regina Opera presented a brilliant and entertaining production on November  21, 22, 28 and 29, featuring two casts. Perfect holiday entertainment!
The plot: a rich widow returns to her native Petrovania, with an inheritance of millions which could save the nearly bankrupt country, if she marries another Petrovanian.   Music, mirth and mayhem galore result.   At the beginning of Act 1, when all were singing a birthday tribute to their King, the portrait we see was actually of Conductor Gregory Ortega!
Anna Glawari, the wealthy widow, was brilliantly sung and acted by soprano Christina Rohm. Rohm’s singing of “Vilia” was sheer magic and “I love you so” (The Merry Widow Waltz) was equally perfect. Ms. Rohm could be heard above the orchestra and as a perfect blend in ensemble numbers; her finales were exciting her top notes like golden stars. Ms. Rohm’s voice has great beauty and is full, round and sumptuous in sound. She simply WAS Anna Glawari. Ms. Rohm was stunning in a peasant dress in Act 2.

Count Danilo Danilovitsch was in the excellent hands of baritone Peter Hakjoon Kim. His caressing and strong singing of “I’m Going to Maxim’s” and “Women” (Girls, girls, girls) and with Anna in “I love you” was captivating. His acting and dancing were part of a very romantic portrayal. His dramatic soliloquy “There once was a Prince” was powerful. Kim’s high baritone was beautifully tapered for this stellar role. Kudos for his heel kicks á la The Rockettes in the “Girls, girls, girls” reprise!

Camille (David Bailey, left) seeks a tryst with Valencienne (Sarah Moulton Faux, right), Photo by George Schowerer
Camille (David Bailey, left) seeks a tryst with Valencienne (Sarah Moulton Faux, right). Photo by George Schowerer
Valencienne was sung by Sarah Moulton Faux. Her beautiful lyric soprano sparkled magically in her duet with her suitor Camille de Rosillon, and she was a fine actress. Their rhapsodic duets together made for a profound sigh for love-illicit or not! Her voice echoed with longing and had a golden sheen.
Camille, Count de Rosillon was sung by tenor David Bailey. Bailey is the possessor of a lovely ardent lyric tenor who entered the very high tessitura of this part with ease. His singing of “See, there’s a place close at hand” describing the nearby pavilion in which Camille and Valencienne could meet for a tryst,  thrilled the listener with its pulsating ascending scales and enchanting irresistible melody. Bailey and Ms. Faux were a handsome couple. Nice to see and wonderful to hear!

John Schenkel was a superb Baron Mirko Zeta. His feigned heart attacks, swooning and general frustration were great fun and his robust baritone was never better. Schenkel’s “double takes” at his peeks in the pavilion thinking his young wife was inside with a lover, were priceless!

The Widow (Christina Rohm, center) surrounded by a group of suitors. Photo by George Schowerer
The Widow (Christina Rohm, center) surrounded by a group of suitors. Photo by George Schowerer
Njegus was in the comical hands of Daniel Kerr who danced a good Can-Can in a skirt. Kerr’s clearly enunciated spoken dialogue was loud and clear and his was  a memorable comic portrayal.
The smaller parts, including the Viscount Cascada of Jon Thomas Olson, Raoul de St. Brioch of Andrew Tse, The Bogdanovitch of Thomas Geib, The Kromov of Kevin Miller, The Sylviane of Jennie Mescon, and the Olga of Noelle Currie were all done with flair.

The marvelous dancers were Wendy Chu, whose grace and charm filled the stage; Christian-Philippe Consigny whose balletic background enables him to heel kick and turn with astonishing precision; and the graceful Stephanie Garcia, all of whom made for formidable dancing.

Petrovanian dancers entertain the guests. Photo by George Schowerer
Petrovanian dancers entertain the guests. Photo by George Schowerer
The Grisettes were brilliantly danced by Wendy Chu as Lolo, Stephanie Garcia as Dodo, Kelly Vaghenas as Joujou and the Froufrou of Sara Laszlo, Cloclo of Lisa Ferraro and the Margo of Christian-Philippe Consigny rounded out the dazzling dancers.
The colorful ensemble included Jennifer Allenby, Lisa Ferraro, Julianne Frohlich, Elena Jannicelli-Sandella, and the versatile Wayne Olsen among others.
The costumes by Julia Cornely were fabulous;  Anna Glawari’s Act 3 black gown sparkled brilliantly; the various medals that bedecked the Counts and Barons looked regal, and the Petrovanian’s were all colorfully dressed. The Grisettes singing and dancing “We’re the ladies of the chorus” were right out of the film “Moulin Rouge”.
The innovative sets as well as the stage direction were by Linda Lehr.  Her genius made all the actions flow like champagne. The “fast freeze” was used effectively and the dialogue by Linda Lehr was whitty; The supertitle were clear and readable. Tyler Learned’s set and lighting designs were truly mood inducing.
The chorus sang with inspiration, the peasant song and “Vilia” were haunting and unforgettable. Both the men and the women in ensemble and separate gave their all!
The Widow Anna Glawari (Christina Rohm, center) entertains her fellow Petrovanians Elena Jannicelli-Sandella (left), Wayne olsen (center) Julianne Frohlich (right) with a ballad. Photo by George Schowerer
The Widow Anna Glawari (Christina Rohm, center) entertains her fellow Petrovanians Elena Jannicelli-Sandella (left), Wayne olsen (center) Julianne Frohlich (right) with a ballad. Photo by George Schowerer
The orchestra, under the inspired baton of Maestro and new Music Director Gregory Ortega was first class. It was like having Franz Lehár himself conducting this great 36 piece ensemble. Maestro Ortega captured the romance and “schmaltz” of the operetta style. The violin solo, during the love duet of Camille and Valencienne played by violin concertmaster Yelena Savranskaya, was sublime. During the bows by the conductor and cast onstage Ms. Savranskaya was in charge of the orchestra for the encore finale of “Girls, girls, girls!” The audience, who hummed along with the melodies clapped in cadence for the bows. Kudos also for violinist Diana Barkan.
In a very troubled world, The Regina Opera continues to give us joy through music, the antidote for all evils. “The Merry Widow” with its beautiful and timeless melodies and dances was the perfect entertainment at the right time.
Thank you Fran Garber President and Producer, and Linda Cantoni Executive Vice President, Treasurer Joseph Delfausse, Vice President Alex Guzman, and volunteer Marlena Ventimiglia for all of your efforts on behalf of the unique Regina Opera, Brooklyn’s own pride and joy. Bravo to all!

Martina Arroyo Foundation Celebrates its 11th Annual Gala

The Martina Arroyo Foundation on Monday, November 16th celebrated its 11th Anniversary of Prelude to Performance. The gala was held at the JW Marriott Essex House in New York City. This was a night to remember, when the worlds of music and fashion merged to form a special magic with an excitement of its own.

Soprano legend Martina Arroyo & Fashion Designer Joanna Mastroianni Photo by Jen Joyce Davis
Soprano legend Martina Arroyo & Fashion Designer Joanna Mastroianni. Photo by Jen Joyce Davis

Brian Kellow, Features Editor of Opera News and bestselling author and radio WQXR evening’s host Terrance McKnight, lent their abundant charm as co-hosts and introduced many distinguished guests in the audience. Gala Producer Midge Woolsey led us in a brief moment of silence for the victims of Paris. The Michel Maurel Award was given to Ernst Rieser, longtime friend, adviser and personal assistant to Mme. Arroyo. Martina Arroyo looking resplendent in a burgundy gown presented the award named after her late much loved  husband.

Martina Arroyo also presented an award to honored guest,Artistic Director Ted Sperling of MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale). He then conducted the chorale in a brief magical piece from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with angelic purity of tone.

The operatic portion then began with “The Flower Duet” from Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini. Brandie Sutton, soprano and Hyona Kim, mezzo blended their voices beautifully. Ms. Sutton is a soprano of radiant promise. Ms. Kim’s majestic mezzo mellowness was alluring. Akari Weintzen was an adorable “Trouble,”(Butterfly and Pinkerton’s child) and performed her tasks with deft professionalism. This was a poignant segment beautifully done. Their tossing of the blossoms to prepare for Pinkerton’s arrival melted the heart.

Jennifer Rowley, sang “Pace, Pace, Mio Dio from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. Ms. Rowleys  opening note was held seemingly forever reaching fortissimo and then diminishing to a whisper. A true Verdi soprano, Ms. Rowley went from strength to strength as if combating the caprices of destiny with prayerful defiance. Her “Maledizione’s” were individually spine chilling. Jennifer Rowley made a successful Metropolitan Opera debut as Musetta last year.

Dinner was served and the program continued with international rising tenor Michele Angelini, who was born in Brooklyn-why not? So were legendary tenor Richard Tucker and baritone Robert Merrill. Angelini thrilled us with a powerful interpretation of “Ah! mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille du regiment. The 9 high “C’s” were hammered out with insouciance, grit and charm.

Sadie & Met Opera Baritone Mark Rucker  Photo by Jen Joyce Davis
Sadie & Met Opera Baritone Mark Rucker Photo by Jen Joyce Davis

Brian Kellow then presented an award gift to Greek born Joanna Mastroianni whose fashion collections reflect her sense of style and elegance. A brief film was shown of her designs accompanied by the haunting voice of Maria Callas singing “Eben” from Catalani’s La Wally.

An auction followed with a real auctioneer-Angelo K. H. Chan! Some of the auction gifts were: a week in the Palais de Paris dans Le Marais, tenor Michele Angelini for an evening of singing, famed Italian Parisian chef Paolo Petrini for a private dinner for eight, and a “poker” night with Martina Arroyo, Marilyn Horne and Tyne Daly were among the highlights!

The Act Two lesson scene from La Fille du Regiment was then performed. Claire Coolen used her saucy soprano and comedic timing and versatility with humor and elan. Karolina Pilou used her dark, plummy and pliable mezzo with great aplomb along with Michele Angelini’s exciting tenor and Jacopo Buora’s resonant bass baritone, put them in a pot and a brilliantly funny brew ensues!

After coffee, tea and desserts and closing remarks from Brian Kellow and Terrance McKnight an “extra dessert” followed. Soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez, who caused a sensation as Violetta in Prelude to Performance in 2014, sang the “Csardas” from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. Ms. Lopez‘s flourishes, scales and exciting coloratura took us on a roller coaster ride that ended with a sustained high note and brought down the house. It was a rousing finale from a young and gifted singer. The exceptional accompanists were Lloyd Arriola and Noby Ishida.

Metropolitan Opera baritone Mark Rucker who coaches the awardees, and his wife Sadie (Publicity) have given their all since the conception of Prelude to Performance and deserve great kudos.

Composer/Singer Rufus Wainwright with fashion designer Joanna Mastroianni, Judy & Nino Pantano. Photo by Jen Joyce Davis
Composer/Singer Rufus Wainwright with fashion designer Joanna Mastroianni, Judy & Nino Pantano. Photo by Jen Joyce Davis

Our table was graced by Gerda Lissner President Stephen De Maio with Board of Directors   Michael Fornabaio, Karl Michaelis, Joyce Greenberg, also Gloria Gari from The Giulio Gari Foundation, Maestro Eve Queler, Robert Lombardo famed vocal agent, soprano Barbara Ann Testa vocal judge, Cavaliere Edward Jackson, and we greeted F. Paul Driscoll, Editor of Opera News, Sachi Liebergesell, President of the Licia Albanese–Puccini Foundation, Murray Rosenthal from Opera Index, Maestro Stephen Phebus and Linda Howes were also present.

Tenor Michele Angelini   Photo by Jen Joyce Davis
Tenor Michele Angelini Photo by Jen Joyce Davis

It was a pleasure to meet Rufus Wainwright (Benefit Committee) composer/musician who had a huge success at The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with his opera Prima Donna as well as fashion honoree, Joanna Mastroianni. Famed coloratura soprano Harolyn Blackwell was as perky and vital as when she sang an unforgettable “Oscar” in Verdi’s Ballo in Maschera with Luciano Pavarotti at The Metropolitan Opera. This was a night of good friends, good food, great singing and all the good and beautiful things in life. Thanks to Gala Chair Cecilia Teng, Gala Producer Midge Woolsey and co-chairs Donna and Richard Esteves and Andrew Martin-Weber.

Soprano Jennifer Rawley. Photo by Jen Joyce Davis.
Soprano Jennifer Rawley. Photo by Jen Joyce Davis.

Martina Arroyo, magnificent Metropolitan Opera and international soprano, human being and humanitarian fully deserved her recent  honor at the Kennedy Center. Madame Arroyo’s work with young promising opera singers is through her Foundation in its Prelude to Performance at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. This program prepares the winners with scholarships plus a stipend for six weeks of study and presents them in four fully costumed productions with orchestra. In July 2016, Prelude to Performance will present two performances each of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss and Puccini’s La Boheme. This also provides the true antidote for the evils in the world by letting the indelible imprint of enlightenment through music enter.

Soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez   Photo by Jen Joyce Davis
Soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez Photo by Jen Joyce Davis

Thanks to the Martina Arroyo Foundation, opera will continue to thrive as young singers are granted the opportunities to perform and offer their special gifts to the world.

Opera Index Presents Their Annual Membership Buffet & Recital

Pianist Michael Fennelly, Maya Yahav Gour, Alexa Jarvis, Sean Michael Plumb, President Jane Shaulis, Galeano Salas & Sol Jin. Photo by Judy Pantano.
Pianist Michael Fennelly, Maya Yahav Gour, Alexa Jarvis, Sean Michael Plumb, President Jane Shaulis, Galeano Salas & Sol Jin. Photo by Judy Pantano.

On the evening of Thursday, November 11th, Opera Index held its annual membership buffet and recital at The Community Church of New York in Murray Hill. It also welcomed its new President, Metropolitan Opera mezzo soprano Jane Shaulis who in turn greeted the enthusiastic audience. We were treated to the vocal talents of five award winners of the Opera Index 2015 vocal competition.

Galeano Salas sang “Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s La boheme. Salas has youth and ardor and also is the possessor of a truly fine tenor. There are moments when his voice is restrained  but suddenly there is a transition to a brilliant top. His beautiful singing of Che gelida manina had many  golden moments and ended sweetly. His later encore of the Mario Lanza hit (1953)”Because You’re Mine” was sung with freshness, elan and a ringing finale. His glorious singing of “Jurame” brought back memories of tenor Alfredo Krauss, with its passion and ringing high C’s. Salas and soprano Alexa Jarvis shook the rafters with their final high C in “O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La boheme. It was a wonderful “extra”encore.

Maya Yahav Gour is a mezzo from Tel Aviv. Her singing of “La romance de l’etoile” by Chabrier revealed a voice with a vibrant smoky sound. She has good interpretive instincts but a delicate quality best suited for operatic rarities. Ms. Gour sings a lot of jazz as well. Her encore of “Smoke gets in your eyes” needs a more intimate venue to be more  fully appreciated.

Meche Kroop, Barbara & David Bender with President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano.
Meche Kroop, Barbara & David Bender with President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano.

Sol Jin baritone sang an impassioned “Avant de quitter ces lieux” from Gounod’s Faust with a stunning optional high note and a strong finale. His encore was a Korean love song with beautiful melody wonderfully sung.

Maestro Eve Queler, Cesare Santeramo, Dr. Robert Campbell & Robert Steiner. Photo by Judy Pantano.
Maestro Eve Queler, Cesare Santeramo, Dr. Robert Campbell & Robert Steiner. Photo by Judy Pantano.

Alexa Jarvis used her crisp powerful soprano in “Stridono lassu” from Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. She had fine portamentos and coloratura with a ringing finale. Ms. Jarvis encore was a touching “Someone to watch over me” (I guess Canio wasn’t good enough?)

Sean Michael Plumb, winner of the Opera Index award for 2015, sang a dazzling “Pierrot’s Tanzlied” from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt. His beautiful baritone caressed the words and his pianissimi were heavenly. The superb accompanist was Michael Fennelly.

We then all lined up for a terrific dinner brought in by members. Like the lasagna which we devoured, the evening consisted of multi layered goodies.

We thank the new President Jane Shaulis, Executive Director Joseph Gasperec, Vice President Philip Hagemann, Treasurer Murray Rosenthal and Board member John Metcalfe, Stephen De Maio from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, trustee, Karl Michaelis and countless friends who make this Opera Index celebration one of the year’s great events. Special kudos to Maestros Eve Queler and Stephen Phebus, with wife Linda Howes, David Bender and Barbara Meister Bender from Career Bridges, Ken Benson opera manager and Met Opera soprano legend Elinor Ross. Other notables and several donors were Doris Keeley, Meche Kroop, Cesare Santeramo and Dr. Robert Campbell. Professor poet Cavaliere Edward Jackson, Brooklynites Bill Ronayne President of the Mario Lanza Society and Lois Kirschenbaum (opera’s number one fan) also added to the festivities.

The Opera Index celebration was truly a “moveable feast” and  the memory will endure until at least next year’s annual musical and edible incredible party!

William Goodhue, Treasurer Murray Rosenthal, Bill Ronayne & Vice President Philip Hagemann. Photo by Judy Pantano
William Goodhue, Treasurer Murray Rosenthal, Bill Ronayne & Vice President Philip Hagemann. Photo by Judy Pantano

2015 Winners of the Lieder/Song Competition

President Stephen De Maio, Erik Larson, Kevin Ray, Pianist Arlene Shrut, Anastasiia Sidorova, Michael Maliakel, Sonja Krenek, Emily Misch, Steven LaBrie, Josh Quinn, Liana Guberman, Sean Michael Plumb & Barbee Monk. Photo by Judy Pantano.
President Stephen De Maio, Erik Larson, Kevin Ray, Pianist Arlene Shrut, Anastasiia Sidorova, Michael Maliakel, Sonja Krenek, Emily Misch, Steven LaBrie, Josh Quinn, Liana Guberman, Sean Michael Plumb & Barbee Monk. Photo by Judy Pantano.

On the evening of Tuesday, November 10th, The Gerda Lissner Foundation in association with the Liederkranz Foundation, introduced the 2015 winners of the Lieder/Song competition. Stephen De Maio, President of The Gerda Lissner Foundation, spoke enthusiastically about the merging of the two organizations for this special occasion. This intimate elegant evening was held at The Kosciuszko Foundation in New York City. The ebullient host for the program was Brian Kellow, Features Editor of Opera News and the singers were accompanied by pianist extraordinaire Arlene Shrut. Mr. Kellow with his wit, anecdotes and knowledge introduced each award-winning young artist and kept the proceedings moving along at a brisk happy pace.

Michael Maliakel sang “Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt.” His is a “dark” bass and his subterranean resonance was used with elegance and style. His poetic longing was expressed as if by Schubert himself. His vibrato was like the great Italian basso’s of old – a rare breed.

Debussy’s “Apparition” was beautifully sung by soprano Liana Guberman. Ms. Guberman’s passionate outbursts and the music evoked the score of Pelleas and Melisande and propelled us to a higher sphere.

Erik Larson beefed up all his vocal resources to beguile us with “I hear an Army” by Samuel Barber. His declarative skills combined with his expressive baritone made for compelling listening.

Emily Misch sang “Amor” from Brentano Lieder. This is a dazzling showpiece very much in the Zerbinetta league. Misch’s coloratura flights were spellbinding her vocal fireworks made the evening feel like the 4th of July!

Soprano Sonja Krenek sang Samuel Barber’s “The Desire for Hermitage” in a powerful sumptuous soprano with a nice “dark” quality.

Tchaikovsky’s “None but the Lonely Heart” was given a powerful reading by mezzo soprano Anastasiia Sidorova. Her rich beautiful mezzo evoked memories of Eula Beal, her gown of orange poppies framed her like a portrait in the Hermitage.

Barbee Monk sang Strauss “Zueignung” with a soaring soprano well suited to the music’s almost Wagnerian flow. The finale is triumphant with expectation and hope. Ms. Monk was a herald of song.

Kevin Ray, Wagnerian tenor more than proved his versatility with a rousing and stirring Italian song made popular by Ezio Pinza and Giovanni Martinelli. His majestic and impassioned singing of “L’Ultima Canzone” by Paolo Tosti gave the night an Italianate flavor. His ringing note at the finale was thrilling as was his caressing tone throughout.

Josh Quinn sang Schubert’s “Fahrt zum Hades.” His bass baritone was pleasing and plangent, acting with his every word and gesture.

Steven LaBrie sang “Intima” by Esperon. His visceral baritone sang this Spanish song with the special brio and machismo and the spirit of the troubadour.

“Du bist die Ruh” by Schubert was sung by Sean Michael Plumb whose baritone seized every nuance from a pianissimo to forte with flair. He captured Schubert’s longing and gave us all a piece to take home.

The reception that followed allowed us the privilege of chatting with artists and friends. Sopranos Elinor Ross and Elaine Malbin, Michael Fornabaio Vice President, Cornelia Beigel Secretary and Karl Michaelis and Barbara Ann Testa Trustees from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Gloria Gari from The Giulio Gari Foundation, Maestro Eve Queler as well as Glenn Morton and Ken Benson from Classic Lyric Arts, Scott Barnes acting and opera coach and Christine and Al Palladino from The Columbus Citizens Foundation and Brooklyn’s Bill Ronayne from The Mario Lanza Society.

An evening of song with young singers and friends made for a wondrous start of the holiday season in the Big Apple! We took a big bite and savored the delicious memory!

 

Classic Lyric Arts Presents Fall Benefit Gala

Glenn Morton (bottom center with blue tie) and emerging opera singers. Photo by Yifu Chien
Glenn Morton (bottom center with blue tie) and emerging opera singers. Photo by Yifu Chien

On the evening of Thursday, November 5th, Classic Lyric Arts held its Fall Benefit Gala at the Kosciuszko Foundation located at 15 East 65th Street in New York City. Under the direction of Artistic Director Glenn Morton, this organization helps promote L’Art du Chant Francais (The Art of French Singing) as well as La Lingua della Lirica (The Language of Opera). Glenn Morton spoke eloquently about the goals and objectives of Classic Lyric Arts and then introduced the young singers.

Mikaela Bennett sang a superlative “Musetta’s Waltz” or “Quando me vo” from Puccini’s La boheme, in a sparkling soaring saucy soprano.

Kady Evanyshyn’s luscious mezzo enthralled with “Connais tu le pays” from Mignon by Ambroise Thomas. Ms. Evanyshyn has a velvety sound that carries well and does justice to the french style.

Vincent Festa sang “Ah! Mes amis” from Donizetti’s La fille du regiment with joyous abandon, his smooth and mellow tenor entering the high C stratosphere with ease.

This was followed by “Tutte le feste al tempio” from Verdi’s Rigoletto with Larisa Martinez and Suchan Kim. Ms. Martinez possesses a radiant and poignant soprano that blended perfectly with Mr. Kim’s warm and spirited baritone.They gave us some lovely and visceral delights.

A true musical surprise was a thrilling rendition of a rarity Youkali by Kurt Weil as sung by Vera Kremers. It is marked “Tango Habanera” and I thought of the late exotic film soprano Ilona Massey or Zara Leander in some exotic cabaret. Ms. Kremer is the possessor of a stunning dark hued mezzo soprano with a volcanic top that erupts Wagnerian gold! The program notes tell us “Youkali, the land of our desires, happiness and pleasure, where we have no worries, only hope and love. Alas Youkali is a folly, a dream-there is no Youkali.”

Dorothy Gal, operatic humorist gave her reflections on the art of opera and how it applied to her and had the audience laughing.

The Quartet from Puccini’s La boheme was reenacted and sung with gusto featuring soprano Nadia Petrella as a touching Mimi, Mikaela Bennett, as a sprightly Musetta, Matt Greenblatt as Rodolfo and the Marcello of Bret Thom. Mr. Greenblatt possesses a solid powerful tenor and Bret an exceptional warm round baritone. How joyful to hear all four young outstanding voices in this opera about the lives young bohemians in Paris!

Gon Halevi and Jordan Rutter know how to handle Handel. Their duet “Va godendo/Io le diro” from Handel’s Xerxes was sublime. Each was a counter tenor to savor with a strong assist from soprano Aedin Larkin. All sang with clarity and dexterity and some exceptional coloratura. Recommended listening is Enrico Caruso’s beautiful recording of “Ombra Mai Fu” from Xerxes. (1920)

“Un bel di” from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly received a heartfelt rendition by soprano Tamara Rusque. Hers is a voice of power, precision and passion with a dark quality to her lovely sound. Ms. Rusque ascended to the finale on a wave of tears and hope!

Glenn Morton gave a brief inspired talk on Classic Lyric Arts and is truly a disciple of the joys of opera! Two surprises followed: a popular Mandarin love song was sung as a duet “The moon represents my heart,” composed by Weng Ching-hsi and was hauntingly sung by Dongling Gao and Jia Jun Hong.

The finale was the”New York, New York” song from Bernstein’s On the Town with the females in the cast as flirtatious enticements. Tenor Matt Greenblatt, baritone Bret Thom and Jon Thierer were the fabulous ebullient sailors- they sang their all! The splendid pianist accompanists to the singers were Jie-Li, Laetitia Ruccolo, Michael Sheetz, Lochlan Brown, Michael Stewart and Weng Chi-his.The great Leonard Bernstein(1918-1990) is buried in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery along with a composer he championed, Louis Moreau Gottschalk. (1829-1869)

The reception continued with wines, fruits, cheeses and desserts. It was nice to meet and greet President Steve De Maio, Cornelia Beigel and Joyce Greenberg from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Maestro Eve Queler, Gloria Gari from The Giulio Gari Foundation, Al and Christine Palladino from The Columbus Citizens Foundation, Arturo Callegari, vocal teacher and his brother famed Maestro Joseph Callegari, Ken Benson who is Vice President of Classic Lyric Arts as well as an opera manager chatting with Brooklyn’s Bill Ronayne from the Mario Lanza Society and sparkling soprano Elaine Malbin, Lou Barrella, opera lecturer and Verdi filmmaker August Ventura. We were truly thankful to have met some of these up and coming talented and youthful artists who were “the icing on the cake.” They were the real desserts at the reception. We thank Glenn Morton, Artistic Director for his splendid efforts on their behalf. Bravo to All!

Maestro Ida Angland and Gateway Classical Music Society Presents Beethoven & Sibelius Violin Concerto in Concert

 

Reviewer Nino Pantano with Maestro Ida Angland & violinist Xiao Wang Photo by Judy Pantano
Reviewer Nino Pantano with Maestro Ida Angland
& violinist Xiao Wang. Photo by Judy Pantano.

At The Little Church around the Corner on the evening of Thursday, October 29th Conductor, Founder and Music Director Maestro Ida Angland and Gateway Classical Music Society and Orchestra presented an evening of music,”up close and personal.” This is the 12th season of presenting concerts and operas to ever growing audiences. In the past such operas as Aida, Rigoletto and Tosca, were presented in concert form and the Verdi requiem to great acclaim. This season the company has been appearing in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York offering different masterworks to appreciative audiences.

The Church of the Configuration located at 1 East 29th Street off Fifth Avenue, also has the nickname that came from a gentleman whose best friend was an actor who had passed away. The large church nearby refused to bury an actor, but as an afterthought the pastor said “there’s a little church around the corner that might bury him.” The name stuck and this beautiful church has been a favorite of theatre folk ever since.

The program opened with a rousing performance of the Tragic Overture Op. 81 by Johannes Brahms. (1833-1897) Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture composed the same year (1880) shows joy and the opposite with the tragic. This composition merely reflects the composer’s emotional versatility. The Gateway Orchestra went from strength to strength under Ms. Angland’s baton making us all the more eager for the Beethoven to follow.

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor, Op. 67 (Completed in 1808) grips the listener with its melodic and rhythmical genius. The master was combating ever increasing deafness at this time.

The opening Allegro con brio movement did not exaggerate the basic theme but the reinforcement of the theme later on stuck with the listener. The entwining themes with various instruments joining in made Maestro Angland a Pied Piper. The strong parts for strings, horns, woodwinds and percussion made for a true joy ride. The final movements with its repetitive theme, almost a sport for the composer, ended in total triumph. Maestro Angland led the orchestra with complete wizardry and mastery. It was a roller coaster ride that earned a wonderful ovation.

The second part of the program began with the Violin Concerto in D Minor Op. 47 by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. (1865-1957) The young violin soloist was Xiao Wang. Mr. Wang with his powerful, subtle, supple playing evoked memories of the great violinists of the past. His cadenzas were executed with ease and brilliance. Mr. Wang had all the ingredients for greatness – introspective like Jascha Heifetz, flamboyant like Nicolo Paganini and warm like Fritz Kreisler. These attributes made for a thrilling and visceral performance. Sibelius’ inner torment could be heard in the violin with its unforgettable dirge like pining. This was like being present at the creation. A brilliant ascending career launched like a rocket!

The program ended with a delightful and spirited Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila by composer Mikhail Glinka. (1804-1857)

Compliments to all the musicians including the violin Concertmaster Gino Sambuco formerly with the new York Philharmonic. We spotted violinist Yelena Savranskaya and principal violist Alexandra Honigsberg both familiar faces from Brooklyn’s Regina Opera. Kudos also to principal cellist Madeline Fayette right in front of us for sublime pizzicato and inspiring playing from the cellos.

As we left, we saw the beautiful and tranquil Madonna grotto and exited with the blue lights of The Empire State Building in the background.

With such musical treats, the Gateway Classical Music Society has let the light in and helped brighten our world. All the musicians deserved and received the ovation and cheers from the very enthusiastic audience many of whom stopped to meet and greet the founder of this musical feast who remains a beacon and inspiration to all – Maestro Ida Angland!