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.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Glenn Morton and the talented students of Classic Lyric Arts summer program

Among the many worthy organizations advancing the careers of young singers and collaborative pianists is Classic Lyric Arts which runs training programs in Italy (for the past six years) and in France (for the past three years).  The two programs, L'Art du Chant Français and La Lingua della Lirica, were founded by Artistic Director Glenn Morton, vocal coach and teacher of diction and vocal literature at all three top music schools in New York City--and holder of a number of other prestigious positions.

The three week training programs accept only 40 students a year, of which 34 are singers and 6 are collaborative pianists.  Admission is based on audition with career potential and readiness for advanced training being considered as well as talent. Exceptional students are granted scholarships.

One might read about what is being taught--repertoire, language, culture, diction, history, style, and dramatic presentation.  One might read about the highly experienced teachers--Ubaldo Fabbri in Italy and Michel Sénéchal in France.  But the proof of the pudding is in the performance.  (Try saying that ten times really fast!)

Last night at the beautiful old world townhouse occupied by The Kosciuszko Foundation, we heard a recital of some of the students from last summer and from prior years.  The performances were completely engaging.  There were qualities that each artist demonstrated, confirming the belief that they were well-selected for the program and profited by the intense immersive training and daily coachings.  

Every word was comprehensible as if the graduates of the total immersion programs were native speakers/singers.  Phrasing was superb.  Dramatic presentations were totally believable as if the arias and duets that were sung were given within the context of the entire opera.  

This seems to be our week for hearing the duets we cherish.  Last night, performers connected with one another and raised their voices in gorgeous harmony that delighted the ear. Soprano Marisa Karchin and mezzo Kady Evanyshyn, having completed the French program last summer, were exquisite together in "Dôme épais" from Leo Delibes' Lakmé.

From Bellini's I Capuleti ei Montecchi, we heard "Ah, crudel, d'onor ragioni" performed  by the lovely Larisa Martinez as Juliet and Kirsten Scott as Romeo.  We have heard Ms. Scott and reviewed her performances a few times and get a lot of joy out of witnessing her growth as an artist.  

Soprano Nayoung Ban was a winning Adina with Terence Stone, a graduate of last summer's Italian program, an ardent Nemorino with all the required pathos. "Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera" from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore was an appropriate choice for these two fresh young voices.

The charming duet "Nuit paisible et sereine" from Berlioz' Béatrice et Bénédicte was sung in beautifully balanced harmony by soprano Dorothy Gal and mezzo Tal Heller, both graduates from last summer's French program.

From Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia we heard "Dunque io son" performed by the adorable Madison Marie McIntosh who made the most of her innocent appearance and wondrously flexible voice to outsmart the wily Figaro, so well performed by baritone Xiaomeng Zhang. We have heard and enjoyed both singers before.

"O soave fanciulla" from Puccini's La Bohème was performed by soprano Nadia Petrella and tenor Brian Moore.  We were impressed by the way they connected with one another to the extent that we forgot they were acting.

Equally convincing were "Piangi, fanciulla/Si, vendetta" from Verdi's Rigoletto in which soprano Boya Wei portrayed the innocent but betrayed Gilda with lovely tone and affect.  SeungHyeon Baek was completely convincing as Rigoletto and conveyed his character's paternal compassion just as well as his angry vengeful nature.

In "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles, tenor Sean Christensen and baritone John Viscardi not only sang to perfection but they created a scene in which you could comprehend the relationship between Nadir and Zurga--both the caring and the rivalry.  So intense was their interaction and reaction that when they sang "Elle est fuit" we turned around expecting to see Leila retreating!

Mr. Viscardi is a superb actor and Mercutio's solo "Mab, la reine des mensonges" from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette was a fine addition to the program.  Mr. Viscardi just completed the French program and completed the Italian program five years earlier.  It is testament to the success of the programs that many students return for more study.

There was one more solo--not an aria but a song from Berlioz' Les nuits d'été, "Villanelle".  Dorothy Gal, who has attended both programs, invested the song with all the delights of nature through the colors of her voice.

All four collaborative pianists excelled--Alden Gatt, Laetitia Ruccolo, Michael Stewart and Michael Sheetz who got up and spoke about his own experiences with the program, first as a student and evolving into a position as coach. So much talent all in one glorious evening!  Let no one sound the death knell for opera when such amazing young people devote themselves to such rigorous study with such impressive results!

© meche kroop

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Tami Petty
Since 1958 Joy in Singing has given an annual award to a singer who exemplifies the rare art of communication through singing.  This year's award went to soprano Tami Petty who exemplifies the goals of the organization.  She is a true "recitalist".

This is not to ignore the beauty of her instrument or technique but what made this recital so special was the way she transmitted not only the meaning of the text but also her feelings about it.  In this context, we were led to share her joy in singing.  And isn't that what it's all about?

Ms. Petty charmed the audience by joking about the lack of translations and introducing the songs herself. Happily, her choice of material focused on the late 19th c. and early 20th c.  Many of the songs were new to us.  We confess to a strong bias towards A.B.E. (anything but English); nonetheless, her choices in that language were just fine.  She opened the program with a set of American parlor songs--all settings of texts by Shakespeare.

Harvey Worthington Loomis' "Hark, hark, the lark" was followed by H.H.A. Beach's "Take, o take those lips away" in which Ms. Petty enjoyed the melisma and spun out a gorgeous high note; piano partner Miori Sugiyama was notable in that song.  Ms. Petty revealed her charming personality in Frederick Ayres' setting of the cute "Where the bee sucks".  The set ended with the provocative question "Tell me where is fancy bred" from Merchant of Venice. Henry F. Gilbert gave it a lovely setting.

We loved the set of songs by Joseph Marx and found Ms. Petty's German easier to understand than her English.  This is not unique to her; we experience this lack of comprehension in nearly all English material, one of the reasons we have a bias against songs in English.

This difficulty was especially prominent in the set of songs by the Canadian composer John Greer.  Judging by Ms. Petty's facial expression and bodily gesture, the songs are exceedingly funny; when we have an hour to spare we intend to look them up on the internet the better to appreciate them.  Poet Paul Hiebert wrote the texts as one "Sarah Binks", the self-satisfied songstress of Saskatchewan who has mistranslated Heine and written songs about hog calling and a mock grief-sticken encomium to a dead calf, and so on.  The irony and satire of lieder came across even without understanding most of the words, owing to Ms. Petty's dramatic skills.

Charles T. Griffes set four texts by Oscar Wilde for which he provided lovely vocal lines and some highly interesting piano accompaniment, beautifully played by Ms. Sugiyama. Again, we will need to look up the texts.

The French of Francis Poulenc's War Songs was finely handled and somewhat more comprehensible.  "Le Disparu" was about a friend of the poet Desnos who died in a Nazi death camp.  The other two evocative songs were settings of poems by Louis Aragon and dealt with the chaos and dislocation of war.

It was the final set of songs by Joaquin Turina that thrilled us the most.  The vowels of Spanish are as delicious in the mouth as those of Italian and for once we could understand nearly every word.  The set began with the piano performance of "Dedicatoria" during which Ms. Petty joked that she could have a rest from singing.  We loved the irony of these songs so well captured by Ms. Petty; they are all about love and express a number of truisms that struck us powerfully. Poet Ramon de Campoamor had a lot to say indeed.

As an encore, the artist, newly made an aunt, sang Brahms' lullaby "Guten abend, gute nacht".  Those words could also describe our feelings about this superb recital.  We had a lovely evening and the good feelings would color our happy night.

(c) meche kroop

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University

In the impressive St. Paul's Chapel, with it's mosaic marble floor, intricate brickwork and stained glass windows, it would be easy to pretend that you were in Venice during the seicento.  And if you had ever attended a Salon/Sanctuary Concert you would have known that you would be leaving at the end of the recital "From Ghetto to Capella" with an uplifted spirit and an expanded knowledge of the chosen theme--the musical exchanges between the Catholic Church and the Jewish ghetto.  We like our entertainment with edification!

Founder and Artistic Director Jessica Gould is as impeccable in her scholarship as she is generous with her artistry.  Last night's program explored the theme and illustrated it with over an hour of carefully curated selections, sung by Ms. Gould, a soprano, and contralto Noa Frenkel.  The fine musicians comprised Grant Herreid who alternated between lute and theorbo, Pedro d'Aquino, equally skilled at the organ and the harpsichord, and James Waldo who played the viola da gamba.

We happily recall a program previously seen entitled "From Ghetto to Palazzo" which focused on the music of Salamone Rossi, a groundbreaking Jewish composer of the period who dared to set sacred Hebrew texts to polyphony.  Like most geniuses,  he was criticized for this advance; perhaps the rabbis found the music to sensual.  

But last night we heard some of Rossi's secular music created for the Gonzaga court in Mantua--a madrigal entitled "Cor mio" passionately sung by Ms. Gould and involving some gorgeous melismatic singing--and a second entitled "Ohime, che tanto amate", sung by Ms. Frenkel and ending on the third note of the scale. Both were accompanied by Mr. Herreid's theorbo.

The influence of the ghetto on music by Venetian composers was even more notable.  In 17th c. Venice, there existed a melting pot of cultures with Jewish, Turkish and Armenian ghettos coexisting in a relatively liberal environment.  Just listen to the Middle-Eastern melodies in the music of Francesco Durante, particularly "Vergin tutto amor"--the phrygian mode seemingly snatched right out of a Hebrew prayer. Ms. Gould sang this with great depth of feeling and a wonderful trill at the end.

We are big fans of Barbara Strozzi, a singularly successful female composer of the time.  She was represented in yesterday's program by the sacred "Salve Regina" and the secular "Lagrime mie", a lover's lament.  Ms. Gould mastered the heavily decorated vocal line in the motet and brought out the Byzantine melody of the opening.  In the lengthy lament of a lover for his immured ladylove, Ms. Frenkel used a variety of dynamics and pacing to provide variety.

This seems to be our week to enjoy duets and we loved hearing Ms. Gould's and Ms. Frenkel's voices joined in harmony in Benedetto Marcello's "O immaculata" accompanied by all three instrumentalists. They also joined forces for the beautiful "Langue, geme" by Handel in which the sad opening stanza yields to a lively and joyful second one--a highlight of the recital.

The instrumentalists also had a chance to shine on their own with a Sonata di Basso by Grigorio Strozzi. We can find no evidence that he and Barbara were related by blood or marriage although their birthdates are rather close.

(c) meche kroop

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Gulzhan Mustakhim and Ruslan Baimurzin

If the Republic of Kazakhstan exported the artists of their Astana Opera on an international tour to raise awareness of their progressive nation, they certainly succeeded.  So entranced were we by their program at Carnegie Hall that we have spent the remainder of the night reading about the country online.  

They are the ninth largest country in the world and the largest landlocked country.  They declared their independence from the dissolving USSR in 1991 and moved their capitol to Astana in 1998.  Their population is nearly 18 million people with Islamic Kazakhs outnumbering Russian Orthodox folk by about 3 to 1.  Religious freedom and democracy are practiced and there are many other ethnic groups and religions also represented.

What is important to us music lovers is the fact that the country supports musical education and performance.  A fabulous new opera house holding 1250 people was built and Ildar Abdrazakov sang the lead in Verdi's Attila for the opening, with Maestro Valery Gergiev (Principal Guest Conductor) on the podium.  The orchestra is a young one with most members between 25 and 30 years of age.

Now how does all this translate into last night's performance?  The program bridged East and West, traditional and modern.  What we most appreciated was the opportunity to hear their traditional native music.  Depicted above are two instrumentalists in exotic native costume-- Ms. Mustakhim making some gorgeous sounds on the kobyz, which appeared to have but two strings played with a bow and Mr. Baimurzin plucking the two strings of the dombrya.  They played Tugan zher, which means Motherland.

The exceptional chorus delighted us with a medley of folk songs, conducted by Erzhan Dautov.  Two exotically costumed singers performed a spirited duet from Birzhan and Sara by M. Tolebaev (about whom we can learn nothing, except that he was a "People's Artist" worthy of a bronze monument); soprano Aigul Niyazova and tenor Medet Chotabayev were accompanied by the enormous symphony orchestra, conducted by Abzal Mukhitdinov.

The orchestra opened the program with a scherzo entitled Celebration by Rakhmadiev in which we could hear the hooves of galloping horses.  They also performed a work by Zhubanov-Khamidi along with that wonderful choir.

Although we yearned to hear more of the native music, the European part of the program was also satisfying.  Dramatic soprano Zhupar Gabdullina sang "Santo di patria" from Verdi's Attila with ringing high notes and a fearless attack of the fioritura.  Baritone Sundet Baygozhin performed "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia; he was expecially good with the tongue-twistingly rapid verse.

The barcarolle "Belle Nuit" from Offenbach's Contes d'Hoffman was sung in thrilling harmony by soprano Aigul Niyazova and mezzo Dina Khamzina.  Soprano Alfiya Karimova performed Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide with a convincing sense of drama and impressive coloratura.  She sang in British English which seemed a bit strange.

Violinist Erzhan Kulibaev did a fine job with Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major; we especially enjoyed hearing his solo cadenzas with their runs, arpeggios and trills.

But, for us, the highlight of the evening was a stirring performance of Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's Prince Igor.  Instead of the field of red flowers at The Metropolitan Opera, we had a stage full of singers in red.  There was such depth in the choral singing that we were strangely moved almost to tears.  The evening ended with much beating of drums and clashing of cymbals.  

We have had only a taste of the music of Kazakhstan but our appetite is whetted for more.  Clearly the progressive intentions of this ancient culture emerging as a modern nature is reflected in the cultural diversity of their musical programming.  No wonder the opening work was entitled "Celebration"!

(c) meche kroop

Monday, October 27, 2014


The glorious assemblage of prizewinners of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation's 2014 International Vocal Competition (photo by Ania Farysej)

Although lost to this world,  Signora Albanese might have been smiling down at the proceedings onstage at the Rose Hall of Lincoln Center.  The 40th anniversary of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation's inception reminds us all of the long term generosity that has provided awards, scholarships, study grants and master classes to young artists.  With Brian Kellow as host, tributes were paid and honors bestowed. New York's opera lovers packed the house to hear this year's crop of winners.

Additionally, winners from prior years returned for their Distinguished Artists Achievement Awards and to share their artistry, serving to demonstrate how wisely the foundation bestows its gifts.  Lyric soprano Lisette Oropesa, a winner from 2007, opened the program with "Prendi!" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, an aria as lovely as the artist; she has a pleasing vibrato and effortless fioritura.  We enjoyed the final high note with its precipitous but gentle descent.

Tenor John Matz, a 2001 winner, sang "Lamento di Federico" from Francesco Cilea's L'Arlesiana; he exhibited a powerful tenor that is also capable of tenderness. Dramatic soprano Lori Phillips, a 1995 winner, sang Minnie's Act I aria from Puccini's La Fanciulla del West.  We cannot believe how much time has passed since we thrilled to her singing with her sister Mary at a Marilyn Horne recital.  Time has only enhanced her luster.  

The above guest artists were accompanied on the piano by Arlene Shrut and Jonathan C. Kelly.  For the 2014 award winners, Maestra Eve Queler mounted the podium and wielded her formidable baton, bringing the Opera Orchestra of New York to a peak of performance.

We have heard most of these young award-winning singers before, either at other competitions or as recitalists, and we have nothing but good things to say about the foundation's choices.  It must have been challenging for the judges to put any one ahead of the others.  We are relieved not to have been put in that position.

First we heard mezzo Ewa Plonka Nino joining forces with baritone Jarrett Ott for the delightful duet from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia--"Dunque io son".  Ms. Nino made a captivating Rosina and Mr. Ott was splendid as the wily Figaro with flexibility of voice and body.  We liked the variety of tempi and enjoyed a few giggles when Rosina produced her note for "Lindoro" from her bosom, thus astonishing and outdoing Figaro's craftiness.

We do love duets and were pleased to hear the beautiful Alexandra Schenck make comedy and harmony with the firm-voiced baritone Ricardo Rivera in the "Papageno-Papagena Duet" from Die Zauberflote.  We think Mozart would have been as pleased as we were to hear it.  

Another Mozart duet, "La ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni, was given a fine performance by soprano Marina Costa-Jackson as an all-too-willing Zerlina, and the fine baritone Jared Bybee (whom we admired so much last summer at the Santa Fe Opera) as the Don himself.  

And yet another smashing duet that we all know and love, "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles, was performed by tenor Mingjie Lei and baritone Brian Vu, both of whom sang with clarity and lightness.  The appropriately named Grace Paradise contributed a great deal as harpist and the gorgeously harmonized duet ended in a flourish of winds.

Baritone Kidon Choi exhibited maturity and a sense of authority in his performance of "Si Puo? Si Puo" from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.  His storytelling skill matched his vocal beauty.  The contribution from the violins was notable.

The second half of the generous program brought on tenor Paul Han for "Fantaisie aux divins mensonges" from Delibes' Lakme.  He exhibited a marvelous messa di voce and fine Gallic subtlety.  We swooned over his sustained pianissimo.

Capturing our admiration for yet another stellar performance was mezzo Shirin Eskandani who performed "Non piu mesta" from Rossini's La Cenerentola with sparkle to spare and enough vocal fireworks for any Rossini fan to cherish. With such a rich voice and flexibility throughout her range, she has made the role her own.  It didn't hurt that she appeared in a glamorous sequined gown that seemed to have been bestowed by her fairy godmother.

Octavian's first act aria "Wie du warst" from Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier was given a finely polished and passionate performance by mezzo Virginie Verrez, expressing all the wild abandon of the teenage boy she portrayed.  In spite of her feminine beauty, she managed to convince us totally with her excellent phrasing and vocal coloring.

We are always delighted to hear soprano Courtney Johnson who sang Liù's aria "Signore, ascolta" from Puccini's Turandot; Liù is such a wonderful character and Ms. Johnson's angelic voice limned her innocence to the point of breaking our heart.

Baritone Alexey Lavrov used his powerful voice in a well-modulated performance of "Questo amor vergogna mia" from Edgar, Puccini's second opera, one which he later repudiated; he sang Frank's aria with authority,control, and fine phrasing.

We got to hear that lovely harp once more in "Stridono lassu" from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, finely sung by Rebecca Pedersen, well on her way to becoming a dramatic soprano of distinction.  Her top notes just rang out and filled up the hall and the vibrato was just right.

We would expect nothing less from bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green who wowed the crowd with the buffo aria "Solche hergelaufne Laffen" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  Not only was it perfectly sung but Mr. Green captured all the angry/funny business, a noteworthy performance.

Tenor Benjamin Bliss capped the prizewinners' portion of the afternoon and captured the hearts of the audience with a flawless performance of "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, using his sweet tone to illuminate the character of the hapless Nemorino who finally realizes he has gained Adina's love.

Maestra Queler and her musicians packed up and left with the final performances by the Distinguished Artists to be accompanied by piano. Roberto Iarussi, a 1999 winner used his impressive Italianate tenor in the moving aria "Non piangere, Liù" from Puccini's Turandot.  The program ended with 2008 winner Jan Cornelius, whose lovely lyric soprano was perfect for "In quelle trine morbide" from Puccini's Manon Lescaut, in which Manon confides in Lescaut her disillusionment with her life of wealth.  Ms. Cornelius has great ease in her top notes and a marvelous messa di voce.  We heard an enviable pianissimo, evidence of perfect breath control.

It was a splendid afternoon and we have the highest expectations of all the gifted young artists we heard.  We long to hear them again soon and wish them the very best in their careers.

© meche kroop

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Elza van den Heever (photo by Dario Acosta)

Apparently, the 19th c. came late to South Africa but better late than never!  Last night at the acoustically amazing Weill Recital Hall we were fortunate to hear a set of songs by South African composers--songs about nature, mainly--contrasting the wonders of the veld with the tumult of the big city. The program was part of Carnegie Hall's UBUNTU--a celebration of South Africa. The songs were sung by the lovely soprano Elza van den Heever whom we much admired and reviewed when she sang Elisabetta in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at The Metropolitan Opera.  The songs are gloriously melodic and stood up well next to the lieder by Brahms and Schumann that were also on the program.

Ms. van den Heever, in her recital debut, held the stage with a great deal of poise and has a bright penetrating soprano that seems comfortable in the high lying tessitura of the Händel arias with which she opened the program.  Both "Mio caro bene" from Rodelinda and "Ah! crudel, il pianto mio" from Rinaldo offered her the opportunity to show the flexibility of her instrument in the lavish fioritura.  Likewise she moved easily from one emotion to another in the various sections of each aria.  Piano partner Vlad Iftinca similarly moved easily from one mood to another.

But it was in Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben that we were able to truly appreciate Mr. Iftinca's gifts, particularly in the postlude when the piano recalls the first meeting the young woman has with her husband to be.  Many women have protested Adelbert von Chamisso's poetry in which a woman has no life beyond childbearing and marriage; when her husband dies, her life is over.  But of course we recognize that this is an early 19th c. viewpoint and we don't care.  We love the music and hope that the singer will convey the woman's progress from adolescence to mature adulthood.

Ms. van den Heever accomplished this reasonably well, although the wonder of the young woman in "Seit ich ihn gesehen" did not come through as well as we'd hoped, perhaps due to the slow tempo.  Things picked up and by the time she got to the girl's wedding day in "Helft mir, ihr Schwestern" this rather reserved artist became excited and expressive, using her entire body, not just her voice and face.  It is clearly a matter of taste, but we prefer our singers to involve their bodies.  This expressive involvement was seen again in "An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust" in which the young woman expresses the joys of motherhood.  Likewise, her grief over her husband's death was quite moving in the final song "Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan".  And then came that stunning postlude!

The set of Fauré songs were beautifully sung.  Ms. van den Heever's quietness served her well here and these delicate gems were sung with lovely long lean lines, as French should be sung and rarely is.  We were particularly fond of the lilting "Les roses d'Ispahan" and "Clair de lune", in which Mr. Iftinca played the most gorgeous prelude.

A set of Brahms' songs was enjoyable, with more involvement of her personality.  We loved "O komme, holde Sommernacht" and the bittersweet "Die Mainacht".  

The set of songs in Afrikaans involved three composers: Stephanus Le Roux Marais, John K. Pescod, and Petrus Johannes Lemmer--all born in 1896 by strange coincidence. Perhaps in that year the planets were perfectly aligned for great music. We only wish that songs like these were being composed today.

We would like to see Ms. van den Heever let go a bit more so that the audience can share her involvement with the material. There is one other issue that hampers this lovely artist who has so much to offer. There was a problem with dynamic control. Her pianissimi were barely audible, her forte more like fortissimo; a smoother transition in dynamics would be welcome.

As encore, we heard Charles Ives' Memories--the pleasant memory of the opera house was given appropriate excitement and the nostalgic tune given appropriate melancholy.  A second encore was yet another song in Afrikaans, the name of which we did not hear.  

© meche kroop

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Steven Blier and Friends at Henry's Restaurant for NYFOS After Hours

Joining a packed house, we joyfully shared in the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Henry's Restaurant on the Upper West Side. The beloved Steven Blier has been presenting cabarets at that venue for the past five years, curating an always astonishing collection of songs performed with what he accurately calls a "torrent of talent", mainly chosen from among the singers he has coached. Like any torrent, this one swept us along.

For his 27th cabaret, there was no program.  Mr. Blier, whose skills as a raconteur rival his pianistic artistry, narrated from the piano. The introduction, a charming ditty by Rodgers and Hart called "Sing For Your Supper" was performed by three women we had not heard before--soprano Meredith Lustig and mezzos Catherine Hancock and Carla Jablonski.  We always expect tenor Miles Mykkanen to do the honors but the three lovely ladies put their own individual spin on the song with some captivating girl-group harmonies.

Happily, we got to hear Mr. Mykkanen later in the program as he put his particular spin on  "I'm Not Getting Married Today" from Sondheim's Company.  It is Mr. M.'s particular gift that he can sing both male and female parts with equivalent pizazz. He also performed "The Only Music That Makes Me Dance" from Jules Styne's Funny Girl.

Tenor Ben Bliss and baritone Theo Hoffman (two singers we always love to hear) were hilarious in "Everyone Eats When They Come to My House", a Cab Calloway song that was new to us.  Its rhymes are too clever by half and exactly the sort of thing for which the English language was made.  We wanted to hear it again right on the spot!

The amazing soprano Julia Bullock, who could keep us raptly involved if she sang the phone book, sang Irving Berlin's "Harlem On My Mind" with a sensibility of the period, evoking feelings of nostalgia for the places one leaves behind.  Mr. Blier gave us some juicy jazz riffs on the piano.

Terrific tenor Theo Lebow sang a Scandinavian song about the sea.  We hope we can be forgiven for not detecting whether it was Swedish, Norwegian or Danish; whatever it was, it was a strong masculine song and he sang it beautifully.

Mr. Bliss made "Maria" from Bernstein's West Side Story new again and spun out the final note with great finesse.  Baritone Jonathan Estabrooks was delightful in "A Rhyme for Angela" from the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin show The Firebrand of Florence.  If you never saw the show, it's worth looking up the plot which is about the escapades of Benvenuto Cellini. Berlioz' opera was not that titillating.

Not every song was modern.  Ms. Lustig, Mr. Lebow and Mr. Estabrook joined forces for an a capella Renaissance song purportedly composed by Henry VIII!  This being an evening of celebrating Henry, why not?

The program ended with Mr. Estabrook singing Bob Merrell's "Henry, Sweet Henry" with lyrics customized for the happy occasion.  The eponymous Henry of 105th and Broadway was a most gracious and welcoming host for the evening's festivities.  With good food, good drink, good music and such an outpouring of love, the evening was a total success.

(c) meche kroop