Opera Index Presents Annual Membership Buffet & Recital

Michael Fennelly, Leo Radosavljevic, Emily Pogorelc, Jane Shaulis, Andres Benavides Cascante, Jaeman Yoon. Photo by Meche Kroop

On the evening of Wednesday, November 8th, Opera Index presented their Annual Membership Buffet & Recital at The Community Church of New York in Murray Hill, New York. This annual dinner concert is a way of enjoying some of the award winning young singers in an informal setting. The food is volunteered by the members and it is easily one of the great parties to be a part of.

Host Jane Shaulis, who is President of Opera Index and a Metropolitan Opera mezzo, welcomed us all and proudly mentioned the $55,000 that was raised for scholarships in the last year. She called them “talented young artists and stars of tomorrow with blossoming careers.” Future Opera Index events include their annual gala on January 21st honoring the great Met Opera mezzo Mignon Dunn, their Spring Lunch honoring patron Karl Michaelis and Maestro Eve Queler’s 50th anniversary of her legendary career with The Opera Orchestra of New York.

Michael Fennelly & soprano Hayan Kim.
Photo by Judy Pantano

The recital began with the appearance of the gifted accompanist Michael Fennelly and the petite and charming soprano Hayan Kim. It united in her singing of “Je veaux vivre” from Gounod’s Roméo and Juliette. Her soprano is full and she sang of love in a light, lively and spirited manner with some adolescent awakening and carried us all with her newfound joy. Ms. Kim was a delightful Juliette of bright vocal potential and a visceral Veronese enchantress.

Bass-baritone Leo Radosavljevic sang “Riez, Allez” from Don Quichotte by Massenet. He is a fine singing actor as well. His voice was better shown in his encore of “Song of the Black Mass” which allowed him to twist his instrument into a beguiling bellow in the quest for the perfect evil! A good show!

Robert Steiner, Christopher LiGreci & Robert Ohlerking. Photo by Judy Pantano

Andres Benavides Cascante’s vibrant singing of “Hai già vinta la causa” from Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart made one snap to attention. His is a dark baritone and his internal actions attached to his vocal giving made for a super magnetic interpretation. His “encore” offering was the Zarzuela selection “Mi Aldea los gavilardes” which was thrilling, topped by a B flat that I haven’t heard since the late immortal baritone Leonard Warren. Mr. Cascante brought back the thrill!

Cesare Santeramo & Dr. Robert Campbell. Photo by Judy Pantano

Soprano Emily Pogorelc, sang “O quante volte” from I Capuleti e I Montecchi by Bellini. Her bright soprano was sincere, heartfelt, with lovely tapering, following the Bellini line, with some lovely highs, solid coloratura and a heaven bound quality. Her encore was “Kiss Me Again” by Victor Herbert and her voice, rich with longing, beautifully transformed us to Hollywood of the romantic 1930’s.

Baritone Jaeman Yoon sang “Nemico della patria” from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier with relentless power, precision and perseverance. His constant projection made the finale less than it could have been. A tad more softness earlier would have infused this overwhelming outpouring into something more. None the less, the ingredients are there and a little polishing will no doubt bring full shine to it.

Michael Fennelly was superb in his accompaniment – light for the Juliette and passionate in the Zarzuela and elegant and transforming in every note he played. Bravo to all!

Composers Penny Leka Knapp & Philip Hagemann. Photo by Judy Pantano

The reception and dinner was just as wonderful. It was so nice to “meet and greet” friends and fellow opera lovers. Executive Director Joseph Gasperec at the door inviting guests to join in and they did! Met Opera great soprano Elinor Ross, opera manager Ken Benson and friend computer wizard George Voorhis, Lois Kirschenbaum, celebrating her special birthday this month, composer/conductor Steve Phobeus and Linda Howes, Vice President Janet Stovin and family, Award donors Cesare Santeramo and Dr. Robert Campbell, several underwriters were Robert Steiner, Jessie Walker, Meche Kroop, Doris Keeley and John David Metcalfe; new member and opera artists manager Robert Lombardo, Faith Pleasanton, psychotherapist Ursula Brown, Jane Le Master, Cavaliere and poet Edward Jackson and Brooklyn friends Bob Ohlerking, Christopher LiGreci and Bill Ronayne from the Mario Lanza Society and Dianna De Martino, whose pasta with pumpkin sauce was heavenly.

Ken Benson, George Voorhis & John David Metcalfe. Photo by Judy Pantano

We missed Murray Rosenthal who had another engagement but it was nice to see composers Philip Hagemann and Penny Leka Knapp who co-wrote the whimsical and popular choral work “Fruitcake.”

What a great night! To quote Cole Porter, “What an elegant, swellegant, party it was!”

 

 

Opera Index Honors Murray Rosenthal at 2016 Spring Lunch

Honoree Murray Rosenthal, Opera Index President Jane Shaulis & Presenter Philip Hagemann Photo by Judy Pantano
Honoree Murray Rosenthal, Opera Index President Jane Shaulis & Presenter Philip Hagemann. Photo by Judy Pantano

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st, Murray Rosenthal, the past President of Opera Index, was honored at the Spring Lunch at The JW Marriott Essex House on Central Park South.

Jane Shaulis, beloved Metropolitan Opera mezzo and current Opera Index President, spoke glowingly of Murray Rosenthal and listed the many singers who were assisted in their careers by Opera Index during his 17 years at the helm. The concert began and the reason for all this activity was beautifully demonstrated by the young awardees who sang.

Shea Owens sang “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, his warm burnished baritone brilliantly negotiating the roller coaster Rossinian terrain with abandon, elan and a touch of the unexpected. Owens literally danced through the audience table to table making Figaro’s exuberance and hubris a gift to all. His patter and agility, range and vocal colors brought us the rainbow Judy Garland sought.

Pianist Michael Fennelly, Soprano Meryl Dominguez, Tenor Robert Watson, Baritone Shea Owens, Tenor Alasdair Kent, President Jane Shaulis Photo by Judy Pantano
Pianist Michael Fennelly, Soprano Meryl Dominguez, Tenor Robert Watson, Baritone Shea Owens, Tenor Alasdair Kent, President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano

Alasdair Kent sang “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti. Kent’s beautiful haunting tenor with its mournful accents, crescendos and ravishing diminuendos made the final cadenza the stairway to paradise. He is a tenore di grazie with a Ferrari shift of gears taking us “out of the commonplace and into the rare” as in Kismet.

Meryl Dominguez regaled us with a silken “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” from Puccini’s La Rondine, her beautifully placed soprano reveling in the high tessitura of this ravishing aria and carrying us all on the journey.

Lastly, tenor Robert Watson sang an old chestnut “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot and gave it new life by infusing it with introspective passion and dramatic flair, fine dark vocal color and an extraordinary climax and finale.

Michael Fennelly was the superb pianist and played with the style and sweep of the great ones.

Philip Hagemann who is a Vice President of Opera Index and a composer of acclaim, was the presenter to Murray Rosenthal. After listing Murray’s many accomplishments at Opera Index and outside of it as an eminent periodontist, medical expert for the federal, state and city levels and Army veteran, Murray is also an avid movie buff. Hagemann began quizzing him about films and casts from Hollywood in that banner year of 1939. Murray passed all the tests and he graciously accepted the crystal New York Apple given to him. Rosenthal then spoke of his formative years and how opera came into his life.

Jane Shaulis, Michael Fennelly Broadway actress Christine Ebersole, Murray Rosenthal & Basso Eric Owens Photo by Judy Pantano
Jane Shaulis, Michael Fennelly, Broadway actress Christine Ebersole, Murray Rosenthal & Basso Eric Owens. Photo by Judy Pantano

Two more surprises awaited him. The great Metropolitan Opera (Met) basso Eric Owens, a former winner of Opera Index who sat at the table of Brooklynite Janet Stovin from the Board of Directors, thrilled us all with a magnificent rendering of “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific. The second surprise was Broadway star Christine Ebersole beautifully singing George Gershwin’s “Our love is here to stay” and then, a la Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, danced between singing with Murray in a touching and romantic moment. It should be noted that both Murray Rosenthal and Philip Hagemann are Broadway, London and Australia investors and producers and share three Tony Awards and one Olivier Award as well.

Patron Karl Michaelis & Joyce Greenberg Photo by Judy Pantano
Patron Karl Michaelis & Joyce Greenberg. Photo by Judy Pantano

It was nice to see so many friends and special guests including Met legends sopranos Martina Arroyo and Elinor Ross, mezzos Rosalind Elias and Nedda Cassei, Opera Index Executive Director Joe Gasperec, Board member John Metcalfe, patrons Cesare Santeramo and Dr. Robert Campbell, composer Stephen Phebus and Linda Howes, Maestro Eve Queler, Gerda Lissner President Stephen De Maio, Karl Michaelis, Michael Fornabaio, Barbara Ann Testa, Joyce Greenberg, Duane Printz from Teatro Grattacielo, David Bender and Barbara Meister Bender from Career Bridges, Mara Waldman Music Director from the Encompass New Opera Theatre based in Brooklyn, tenor/film maker Michael Davis from Remi Arts, Inc. who sang Marius in Fanny and who is the son of the late opera legend Regina Resnik, PBS’s Midge Woolsey and spouse Dr. Jerry Stolt, Rebecca Paller from the Paley Center for Media and devoted opera fan Lois Kirschenbaum.

The party is over but the song lingers on. A memorable tribute to that “wonderful guy” who we all love – Murray Rosenthal!

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!

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