MISSION

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.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

NYOE GETS LUCIA RIGHT

Adam Fieldson, John Viscardi, Sarah Beckham-Turner, Alden Gatt, Joseph Michael Brent and Antoine Hodge


Lucia di Lammermoor is a sensational opera.  Onto Salvadore Cammarano's libretto, Gaetano Donizetti lavished endlessly glorious melodies.  It is so precious to us that we doubly value a company that does it justice and would malign one that trivializes it in any way.  We are delighted to report that New York Opera Exchange has gotten it right and if you are fortunate enough to snag one of the few remaining tickets for today's matinee, you will probably send us flowers or chocolate in gratitude for the tip.

The success of the opera rests heavily on the shoulders of the eponymous tragic heroine whose mad scene is one of the finest in all operadom.  Last night, soprano Sarah Beckham-Turner tore into the demanding coloratura of the scena with wild abandon.  She was completely convincing as a fragile creature completely unhinged by the machinations and manipulations of her politically desperate brother.  Her gown spattered with blood and her hair undone, she immersed herself totally in the role. Every gesture and flight of fioritura was spot on. Who could ask for anything more! This young woman will surely go places in the opera world.

As said conniving brother, baritone John Viscardi was superb. His recent switch of fach from tenor to lyric baritone was a wise one.  His voice sat comfortably in this range, enabling him to focus on a well-rounded interpretation of the role of Enrico, far better than the nasty sneering interpretation we are accustomed to hearing.  He seemed like a fairly decent fellow who was pushed by circumstances into doing bad things.  His remorse in witnessing his sister's downfall seemed authentic and allowed the audience to have some pity for his position.

As Lucia's ill-fated lover Edgardo, tenor Joseph Michael Brent sang well and exhibited all the requisite emotions except for one; we wanted to see some tenderness toward Lucia in their initial scene together to explain why she would have defied her family to pledge her love to him.  He did much better in the scene in which he returns from France to find Lucia married to Arturo and bristled with anger. 

Bass-baritone Antoine Hodge was the voice of normality in this power-crazed family, giving substance to the role of Raimondo, the family's spiritual counselor.  Captain of the Guard Normanno was the character who set the tragedy in motion by spying on Lucia's encounters with Edgardo and then egging on the brother Enrico.  Tenor Adam Fieldson overcame the natural sweetness of his instrument and lent sneering arrogance to the part.

The role of Arturo was finely sung by tenor Vincent Festa and mezzo-soprano Chelsea Laggan did well as Alisa, Lucia's companion who warns her to stay away from Edgardo of Ravenswood, enemy of her clan, the Lammermoors.

Conductor Alden Gatt deftly led the full orchestra through their paces. There was some fine work during the mad scene by flutist Felipe Tristan, and the wind chorales which opened several scenes were powerful.  A keyboard sufficed for the harp.There were a few times when the size of the orchestra overpowered the singers, likely due to their placement on the same level as the audience.

The effective direction was by Christopher Diercksen; the pace was kept up and the story moved along briskly.  There was no set to speak of but it wasn't missed.  Taylor Mills' costuming was minimal.  Street clothes seemed to be the order of the day with motley plaid sashes on some of the cast members. We would have liked to see all the men wearing the same plaid to indicate membership in the same clan, with Edgardo wearing a different plaid.  This would have emphasized the substance of the tragedy--the destructiveness of rivalry with and hatred of "the other", a feature that still exists in many parts of the world.

We wish to counteract the claim that "opera is dying" with the observation that opera is alive and well in the hands of small companies like New York Opera Exchange which rely on talent rather than "big names".  We similarly wish to counteract the claim that "opera is for old folks" with the observation that the packed house at The Church of the Covenant on 42nd St. comprised mostly 20-somethings.

We are already anticipating NY Opera Exchange's production of Carmen in May.

(c) meche kroop

Saturday, February 28, 2015

GEORGE LONDON'S LEGACY

Nora London and the 2015 George London Foundation Awards Competition Finalists

Attending competitions can be exhilarating, stimulating, and sometimes disappointing. With so much talent onstage it is easy to get very invested in your favorite performances and to count on a particular artist getting an award.  Second guessing the judges just doesn't work.  It is easy to feel upset when an artist you just love gets overlooked.

On the positive side, it is thrilling to hear so much talent within the space of a couple hours.  This year's finalists in the George London Foundation for Singers Competition, held at The Morgan Library, were of such high quality that a director would have no trouble casting an opera with these young artists in major roles.

If you need to know who won the major prizes, we refer you to the Foundation's website.  We prefer to share with you our own perceptions.  Some of the singers we enjoyed did win major prizes, some won Encouragement Grants, others did not and, in our opinion, deserved to win.  Actually, all of them were winners!

A gifted singer can get the listener to appreciate an aria that he/she might not ordinarily enjoy, or a language one does not particularly favor. For example, baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. and bass Adam Lau employed such fine English diction that we understood every word and considered their performances two of our favorites.

Mr. Smith has a compelling stage presence, a rich tone, and a unique way of melding musicality with dramatic intensity such that  "Oh Lawd Jesus, heah my prayer" from L. Gruenberg's The Emperor Jones had us leaning forward in our seat.  When that opera gets produced in New York and Mr. Smith stars in it, we will be there!

Mr. Lau gave a similarly superb performance of "Claggart's Aria" from Britten's Billy Budd, giving the role all the bitterness and envy that was called for without ever compromising the requisite musicianship.

Two terrific tenors injected some longed-for garlic into the proceedings which were strangely short of Italian. The two distinguished themselves from the other tenors by never forcing the voice when a high note was called for.  Michael Brandenburg sang Macduff's grief stricken aria "Ah, la paterna mano" from Verdi's Macbeth, skillfully using dynamics for emotional effect.  Benjamin Bliss' performance of "Un aura amorosa" from Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte was marked by enviable legato phrasing and an admirable messa di voce.

Having just heard Tchaikovsky's Iolanta at the Met, we were delighted to hear "Robert's Aria" once again, sung by the full-throated baritone Sean Michael Plumb who seemed preternaturally comfortable in Russian.  Lovely soprano Mary-Hollis Hundley performed "Iolanta's Arioso", investing Tchaikovsky's lavish melodies with depth of feeling.

German was represented by Julie Adams who employed her ample and expressive soprano in "Einsam in trüben Tagen" from Wagner's Lohengrin.  Amy Owens used her bright soprano effectively in "Durch Zärtlichkeit" from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  Johann Strauss' "Frühlingsstimmen Walzer" was performed by soprano Susanna Biller with great style and an ear tickling trill which roused the audience to huge applause.

Much of the remainder of the program was in French.  Massenet appeared several times and we felt well acquainted with Manon.  Soprano Lara Secord-Haid enjoyed the wild flights of coloratura in "Je suis encore toute étourdie" when the eponymous heroine was still innocent.  Andrea Carroll's well modulated performance of the "Gavotte" profited (pun intended) from her winning personality and fine fioritura.

More Massenet was on hand as soprano Nicole Haslett sang "Ah! douce enfant" from Cendrillon; her ringing tone was perfect for the role of the fairy.  Just another splendid performance! And yet more Massenet appeared as soprano Lauren Michelle sang "Il est doux, il est bon" from Hérodiade in fine French with elegance of line.

Soprano Courtney Johnson gave a most convincing performance of the "Jewel Song" from Gounod's Faust.  Ms. Johnson is only 23 years old but is gifted beyond her years, judging by her technique and commitment to the material.  We have been watching her growth as an artist for a couple years now with great expectations.

Mezzo-soprano J'nai Bridges is another artist we have been watching and her performance of "O ma lyre immortelle" from Gounod's Sapho demonstrated a fine liquid vibrato, and equal connection with the material and with the audience. We want to hear the entire opera based on this gorgeous aria.

Meyerbeer's florid vocal line in "Nobles seigneurs, salut" from Les Huguenots was no challenge to mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson who filled the role with ample personality. From Berlioz' Les Troyens, mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko sang Dido's aria "Adieu Fière Cité" with a lovely legato line.

Notably, each singer introduced him/herself and the aria he/she would sing. There were several other performances that we enjoyed but we have already run on and on. As accompanist Linda Hall was peerless and switched styles effortlessly.  

Nora London has been tireless in sustaining the legacy of her late husband George London.  He would have been so happy to see all the generous prizes being awarded to these deserving young artists!

© meche kroop

Friday, February 20, 2015

LIEDERABEND AT JUILLIARD

Hea Youn Chung and Angela Vallone

At Juilliard's latest liederabend, with Natalia Katyukova's coaching, all 10 Juilliard artists performed exquisitely, which is not to say that we enjoyed all of them equally. It was the final set of  songs by Joseph Marx, performed by the lovely soprano Angela Vallone in collaboration with pianist Hea Youn Chung, which captured our heart. Of all the composers on the program, Marx is the one most suited to our 19th c. ears and Ms. Vallone sang the songs most expressively.

Not only do we favor the Romantic period but we prefer songs about love and nature to those about war, depression, religion and conflict. Love is something to sing about!  And Marx carried over the mood of the 19th c. right into the 20th.  We particularly enjoyed "Nocturne" with its A-B-A form and lovely writing for piano.

Benjamin Britten set Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, also about love. These belong firmly to the 20th c. and are not nearly as melodic. They were passionately sung by the wonderful tenor Miles Mykkanen with William Kelley at the piano.  Mr. Mykkanen has been extending himself in new directions, which we applaud.  That being said, we most enjoy his particular artistry in songs of humor and irony.

Soprano Razskazoff joined forces with Valeriya Polunina to perform three selections from Olivier Messiaen's Poèmes pour Mi, written for his violinist wife in 1938.  Ms. Razskazoff has a marvelously poised stage presence and a sizable voice just begging for the opera stage. Of the three selections, only "Le collier" expressed a sentiment to which we could relate.  But Ms. R's voice was thrilling, especially in the extended melismatic passages.

Bass-baritone Tyler Zimmerman utilized his voice and body in a most expressive fashion in two songs by Alexander Zemlinsky--both expressing anti-war sentiments with irony and bitterness. Mr. Zimmerman did his own translations of both. He also sang a trio of songs by Shostakovich--of later origin and lesser melodic interest. Kathryn Felt was his fine collaborative pianist.

Tenor Alexander McKissick performed six Poulenc songs with Ava Nazar as pianist. Poulenc chose to set texts by Apollinaire who survived World War I.  The poetry is surreal and said to reflect the visual arts--i.e. Cubism.  Our personal favorite was "Mutation". Notably, Mr. McKissick did his own translations.

It was greatly appreciated that each singer introduced the set of songs to be sung and told a little about their origins.

© meche kroop


ENJOYING RAPE

Kurt Kanazawa and Avery Amereau (photo by Ken Howard)

We are filled with wonder whenever brought to the point of appreciating that which we might have disdained.  Whom do we credit for the reversal of taste?  In the case of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, credit must be shared by the super-talented young artists and the incredibly astute production team.

The libretto by Ronald Duncan did not sound promising; the evil Etruscan prince Tarquinius rapes the faithful wife of Collatinus, his comrade in arms. But look what director Mary Birnbaum has made out of this slender story.  She has placed the Greek chorus firmly in the 21st c., allowing them to comment on the story through the prism of Christianity and also to address the characters in this 500 BCE story. For the most part, the narrators appear to be reading from a history book.  She has mined the tale for contemporary relevance, highlighting the contrast between the creative productivity of women and the destructive power-seeking and war-mongering of men.

Jocelyn Dueck merits special mention for getting each and every artist to enunciate each and every word clearly so that not a single word was missed, thereby overcoming our dislike of operas sung in English.  The dialogue, based on Le Viol de Lucrèce, a play by André Obey, has language that rivals that of Homer with some beautiful metaphors that deserved to be heard and savored. They were.

And what a cast!  There is such strength in Juilliard's Vocal Arts Department that each role could be perfectly cast.  As the eponymous Lucretia, mezzo-soprano Avery Amereau fulfilled the demands of the role both vocally and dramatically.  She has a rich and resonant instrument that she employs skillfully and flawlessly.  Dramatically, she was totally convincing as the beautiful and innocent Lucretia who, in a fit of self-directed "slut shaming", stabbed herself after being raped.

As the rapist, the good-natured baritone Kurt Kanazawa transformed himself into an arrogant entitled brute who cannot bear the fact that his fellow comrade-in-arms Collatinus is married to the only faithful woman in Rome.  His mellow voice was given a bitter edge that was chilling. His wild ride into Rome was breathtaking.

As the aforementioned Collatinus, bass Daniel Miroslaw, whom we had not previously heard, made a fine showing--the only sympathetic male character amongst the warriors.  We look forward to hearing his booming bass in the future.

Baritone Joe Eletto portrayed Junius, another soldier, with great vitality.  He too has been cuckolded and feels resentment toward Collatinus' good fortune but would not act on it.  All the ambivalence was there in his wonderful voice and body language.

The three military men have a wonderful scene in their encampment outside Rome as they malign women and strut about emanating testosterone-fueled rage.  It was made clear how humiliation leads to rage and that rape is an act of rage, not sex.

Tenor William Goforth beautifully handled the role of narrator (Greek chorus), telling the story in a meaningful manner and with supernally clear diction. Mezzo-soprano Marguerite Jones held up the female part of the chorus with her customary skill.

As Lucretia's two women servants, mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms impressed as the maternal Bianca as did soprano Christine Price as Lucia.  One of our favorite scenes was that of the three women joining voices in a stunning trio while spinning wool on spindles.  Might we add that they appeared to know exactly how this task is accomplished!  Britten's music at this point was extraordinarily lovely.

The opera itself was composed by Britten as one of a group of chamber operas written in the impoverished post-World War II period when faith and funds were in equally short supply. Members of the excellent Juilliard Orchestra, under the baton of Mark Shapiro, brought the compelling score to vivid life.  We do so love the harp and Marion Ravot's playing was ravishing. The wind section was particularly well employed.

The simple but effective set by Grace Laubacher comprised a simple table and chairs for the two narrators and a large rotating platform for the historical scenes. Lighting was by Anshuman Bhatia. Costumes by Sydney Maresca were effective, particularly the soldiers' garb. Adam Cates choreographed Tarquinius ride and the rape scene most grippingly.

Who could ask for anything more?

© meche kroop







Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A HEART-ON FOR BARTON

Jamie Barton --photo by Stacey Bode

When an opera singer gets a lengthy standing ovation with whoops and shouts, the world must sit up and take notice.  This generation has not seen the likes of mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton whose stardom is assured.  If folks outside of the opera world got to hear last night's recital at Zankel Hall, Beyoncé might be knocked off her perch.

When we speak of a complete artist, this is what we have in mind: a thrilling instrument, perfect technique, compelling stage presence, engagement with the material and rapport with the audience.  All this Ms. Barton has in spades.  Her richly textured voice reminds one of a chocolatey porter; it is as smooth and weighty as burnished brass.

The remarkable feature is that every song sounds different as Ms. Barton seems to channel the intent of the poet.  This was particularly evident in the set of Schubert songs, each a very particular setting of poetry by Goethe.  Schubert chose the texts wisely, as wisely as Ms. Barton did in selecting them for her program.

The ballad "Der König in Thule" was a chance to tell a story whereas "Gretchen am Spinnrade", (with Bradley Moore's piano keeping the spinning wheel spinning obsessively), is more of a mood piece, reaching its desperate apogee with the words "sein kuss" lapsing into rapture. On this phrase, Ms, Barton opened up her voice and gave us goosebumps. "Schäfers Klagelied" was imbued with a lovely lilting waltz feeling while "Rastlose Liebe" was, well, restless. It was a stunning set.

No less stunning were Ernest Chausson's elegiac chansons, all delicacy and tenderness.  We loved all three: "Le colibri" was so effective that we saw the hummingbird drowning in the cup of the hibiscus.  The charming "Hébé" speaks of lost youth and "Le temps des lilas" speaks of lost love and the irreversibility of time.  All this was captured by this gifted artist and her fine collaborative pianist Bradley Moore.  The long lyric lines were typically Gallic in character. What memorable melodies he wrote!

Readers will recall how fond we are of Spanish music and can imagine how thrilled we were to be introduced to Joaquín Turina's Homenaje a Lope de Vega comprising three songs marked by classical technique and folky melodies.  Although the first canción "Cuando tan hermosa os miro" addressed romantic disappointment, the second "Si con mis deseos" was filled with spirit, and the final "Al val de Fuentes Ovejuna" told of a knight determined to win over a reluctant beauty.

Antonín Dvořák's Gypsy Songs are deeply emotional and convey all the freedom of gypsy life that we fantasize about.  We have heard them many times in German but this was the first time we heard them in the original Czech of Adolf Heyduk.  It was fascinating to hear the melody follow the sound of the language, even though we don't understand a single word of Czech.  There is much sadness in these songs as well as the thrill of the dance, not to mention the nostalgia for the poet's learning to sing from his elderly mother. The emotional sweep had a huge impact as Ms. Barton dug deeply into her feelings.

Contemporary composer Jake Heggie wrote a cycle entitled The Work at Hand, sung without break, a setting of poetry written by Laura J. Morefield who was struggling with cancer.  In the text there is courage, grace, joy and hope.  The audience seemed to love it and Ms. Barton was accompanied by cellist Anne Martindale Williams as well as piano. The piece was written for Ms. Barton and last night was its world premiere. She will also premiere in the orchestral version with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

The work opens with some punchy nervous music and the cello plays some strange ascending scales while the voice enjoys some lovely melismatic passages.  We preferred the music in the latter part when the piano played a gentle tinkly theme on the upper reaches of the keyboard.  We did not find the vocal line particularly musical but Ms. Barton invested it with meaning.  Every now and then we caught a few words but, like most singing in English, not very many.  Still, the free verse did not seem to lend itself to a melodic vocal line and, for our taste, did not thrill as did the rest of the program.

For encores, Ms. Barton sang two spirituals: "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" and "Ride On King Jesus".  How interesting that every word was clear!

ⓒ meche kroop

Saturday, February 14, 2015

NATHANIEL OLSON

Nathaniel Olson (photo courtesy of Carnegie Hall)
Sometimes we can tell everything there is to know about a singer from the first set of songs.  In the case of the fine young baritone Nathaniel Olson, presented at the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, we didn't really "get" him until the encores, of which there were two.

In the first, Mr. Olson sang "Die Neugierige" from Franz Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin and he sang it with all the youthful wonder and tenderness that is demanded by Wilhelm Müller's text.  We wanted to hear him sing the entire cycle.

The second encore was Aaron Copland's setting of an agrarian protest song from the post-Civil War period entitled "He's a dodger". This folk song was composed to discredit a presidential candidate who has been long forgotten.  But the song remains and Mr. Olson introduced it with a wonderfully original and persuasive preamble that revealed the personality that was rather hidden during the rest of the program.  The song pokes fun at the dishonesty of lawyers, politicians, salesmen, ministers and lovers--indeed, of everyone.

As far as the main body of the program, there was nothing to criticize except for the insecurity and inconsistency of the pronunciation of the final "g" and "ch" in German--a flaw commonly heard in American singers.  Sometimes the sound is omitted and sometimes it comes out as "ick". This should be simple to correct.

And yet, there was nothing in the program that thrilled us.  We wondered if Mr. Olson really loved the songs he sang.  In the program notes, he told of loving German lieder and Swedish songs since childhood.  So why then did his opening set of Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 24  strike us as bland?  We adore Schumann and expected to be thrilled.  We were not.

Again, nothing was bad, and Mr. Olson clearly showed a lot of connection with his able accompanist and mentor Kevin Murphy.  Was it us?  Our companion was likewise unmoved by these poems of love yearned for, love anticipated, and love lost.  The lovely melody of "Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden" gave way to bitterness.  We heard it but we weren't "feeling" it.

The early 20th c. Swedish composer Ture Rangström set texts by many different poets but seemed to have a penchant for the unhappy. The songs fell on our ears with no more pleasure than the Schumann. Although Mr. Olson himself did the translation, we did not feel the connection we wanted to feel.

It is a rare recital in which we prefer the American songs but we thought Mr. Olson did justice to the lovely "Beautiful Dreamer" by Stephen Foster.  Many singers who have been associated with Marilyn Horne's program have paid tribute to her by including it in their programs and it is always lovely to hear.

Ned Rorem's "Early in the Morning", the setting of a text by Robert Silliman Hillyer, lent a note of charm and good feeling to the evening and Mr. Olson sang it beautifully with his pleasing baritone.  For once, we could visualize the circumstance and feel the pleasure of the poet.

Similarly, Aaron Copland's setting of the traditional folk song "The Little Horses" continued the pleasant feeling.  Mr. Olson and Mr. Murphy took the tempo very slowly allowing us to savor every word, and Mr. Olson exhibited a fine messa di voce.

We were unable to savor the set of Hanns Eisler songs from Ernste Gesänge which were filled with negativity, perhaps not the best choice of material.  The piano writing is jumpy and dissonant and the vocal line verges on the bombastic.

Of the Four Songs, Op. 13 by Samuel Barber, we most enjoyed the lighthearted "The Secrets of the Old" by William Butler Yeats in which three women are relishing the certain privileges of advanced years--the memories and the gossip.

We are holding open our opinion of Mr. Olson, hoping that the next time he presents a recital, he will let loose and reveal his personality. Perhaps someone told him to take it seriously but we'd like to tell him to lighten up!

© meche kroop

Friday, February 13, 2015

DEUS EX MACHINA

Andrew Stenson and Ying Fang  (photo by Marty Sohl)

The production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide was so outstanding we do not know whom to credit first.  Undeniably, conductor Jane Glover had a hand in it, or should we say "two hands" as she used them in balletic fashion to guide Juilliard415 (Juilliard's period-instrument orchestra) through Gluck's lean expressive score.  From the very first theme of the overture, heard at key moments later in the opera, we knew we were in good hands.  We want to call her Jane Goodhands, no "gloves" necessary.

Gluck can be said to have revolutionized opera in the mid 18th c.  By eliminating many excesses of the baroque, he paved the way for Mozart's genius.  By selecting libretti with authenticity of emotion, psychological insight, and sincere simplicity, he engages the listener who can examine his or her own predicaments and find resonant parallels.  Who has not struggled with desires that conflict with duties?  In this case, the libretto by du Roullet was based on the Racine play of 1674.  The opera premiered in 1774 in Paris.

Still, it is the singers themselves that carry the opera and we found the performances to be beyond criticism.  Each and every singer, drawn from the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and Juilliard Opera, was astutely cast, vocally perfect and dramatically affecting.  Were it not for the unexpected happy ending (unexpected because we had not read the synopsis beforehand) we would have gone home in tears.  Thankfully, due to the intervention of the goddess Diane, the innocent Iphegénie gets to live and to marry her beloved Achille.

Soprano Ying Fang made a perfect Iphegénie, using her expressive limpid voice, face and body to convey the nobility of character that enables her to express both despair over losing her young life and submission to her fate as a sacrifice.  At one point, convinced that Achille had been unfaithful (a ruse), she summoned up quite a lot of outrage.

Similarly, her intended husband Achille, as performed by tenor Andrew Stenson, conveyed rage at Agamemnon, tender love and protectiveness toward his bride and also had to exhibit outrage at being falsely accused of infidelity.  He accomplished all this without compromising his warm appealing tone.

As the conflicted Agamemnon, baritone Yunpeng Wang limned the character of a man torn between love for his daughter and duty to the gods who demanded the sacrifice. Mr. Wang has a round sturdy baritone that can sound authoritative when necessary to control others, angry when confronting the recalcitrant gods and yet tender when thinking of his child.

Mezzo-soprano Virginie Verrez was stunning as the mother Clytemnestre.  She has a true rich mezzo sound with a great deal of depth.  In the closest thing to a mad scene that one might see in a pre-19th c. opera, she nearly loses it in her rage at her husband--all without losing her magnificent phrasing and tone.  At her entrance she is all regal dignity and it was upsetting yet understandable to watch her decline into near madness as she wished to substitute her life for her daughter's.

As the high priest Calchas, bass-baritone Brandon Cedel demonstrated why he has been winning prizes everywhere.  His lordly tones expressed the matter-of-fact information that Iphegénie must be sacrificed.  It was in different tones that he announced toward the end of the opera that the goddess Diane had arrived.

As Achille's friend Patrocle, baritone Takaoki Onishi gave his usually fine performance, lending truth to the saying in the theater world that "There are no small roles".  

All of the singers mentioned so far are familiar to us as we have watched their growth from one year to the next.  But last night we heard two singers for the first time and enjoyed their performances enormously.  Serbian bass Sava Vemić made a fine showing as Arcas, Agamemnon's lieutenant who is responsible for conveying messages important to the plot.  His rich substantial sound made us want to hear more of him.  As Diane, soprano Liv Redpath had the enviable role of the "deus ex machina" making everyone happy.  It will make us happy to hear her again.

As Three Greek Women, Angela Vallone, Kara Sainz and Mary-Elizabeth O'Neill made a fine showing as well.

Although billed as a "concert version" the young artists, performing onstage in front of the musicians, acted up a storm.  The only features missing were costumes and sets; we never missed them due to the persuasive acting and fine singing.  David Paul directed the enterprise, a collaboration of The Metropolitan Opera and The Juilliard School.

Finally, let us not forget to mention the fine French diction.  Even the chorus, positioned on the sides and at the rear of the orchestra made the language comprehensible.  There is only one more performance on Saturday at 2:00.  Miss this at your own peril.  Don't say we didn't tell you!

(c) meche kroop