Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Ambassadors of Opera

I've waited to write this, knowing I would have difficulty curbing my effusive praise for the amazingly talented musicians who came to Stamford to perform on April 15. In spite of their tremendous gifts, they were each so personable and so approachable, so casual about the music that they made for those of us in the audience to marvel at.

The turnout was gratifying as well, not only because it was the first concert of our season but also because we generally do not expect as many folks to show up for a voice performance. Many of us have a very negative bias towards opera; does it come from cartoons of our childhood memories of Bugs Bunny singing Wagner, or of forced attendance at the concerts of would-be divas in our local churches as we were growing up that convinced us that all opera could be was a series of shrieks that we squirmed through? Or does it come from listening to opera on television or radio with less than ideal audio fidelity that makes us think it's nothing to get excited about? There were a good number of folks who decided it was worth another listen, and they were without exception glad that they did, I believe.

It was really wonderful to hear a few open-minded individuals comment that they came to the concert accepting my promise that it would be different this time, that hearing such voices in the close confines of the Cyr Center was an entirely different experience from even a professional production in a major hall. So it was on April 15, a magnificent demonstration of the beauty of the human voice as instrument. We were surely not disappointed, and no doubt after hearing these artists there were more than a few folks in the room who are newly attuned to Opera as an art form.

This international group of artists -- Haeran Hong, Alexander Lewis, Luthando Qave and Natalia Katyukova -- were indeed ambassadors, perhaps even evangelists, for their art through the beauty of their performance, and for the notion that the collaboration of great talent across borders is worthy of our whole-hearted support. We cannot thank them enough for sharing their gifts with us and for opening our hearts and minds to the world of Opera!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Concert Sunday April 15, 2012 at 3PM -- Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program

Friends of Music is proud to open our 26th Season with a performance by an international group of rising young opera stars through the auspices of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. This marks the fourth year we have opened our season with music from Lindemann Young Artists, but it will be the first time we will have a tenor in the ensemble.

The concert will begin at 3PM on Sunday April 15 at the Cyr Center on West Main St. in Stamford, NY. The forecast is for a beautiful spring day and likewise we have some beautiful music to look forward to!

For those who are new to Friends of Music, we are very fortunate to have an ongoing relationship with the Lindemann Program thanks to Ilkka Kalliomaa, a long-time board member and former president of FoM. Mr. Kalliomaa generally provides the transportation for the artists as well and it is an arduous three-day cycle for him, so we all owe him a big "Thank you!" as well.

The Lindemann Program identifies the most promising opera artists and provides them with training and performance opportunities through the Metropolitan Opera, along with financial support during a period of up to three years for singers and two years for pianists. More information about the program can be read at the Met's Web site. Friends of Music is very grateful for their ongoing willingness to send some of their fine young artists to perform in our little series.

This year soprano Haeran Hong comes to us through the Juilliard School; she is not a Lindemann Young Artist. The Met and Juilliard's Opera division have a very close relationship and share some staff members, which is how Ms. Hong was invited to perform. Originally from Korea, she may be familiar to some in our area through her performances at the Glimmerglass Opera in 2010.

Also new to Stamford will be Alexander Lewis, tenor, of Australia and South African baritone Luthando QaveNatalia Katyukova, piano will be here for the second time, having performed in our April concert in 2011. Originally from Russia, she has since added conducting at the Met and coaching at the San Francisco Opera to her CV. Please read more about the artists at our Web site.

The program for Sunday will be as follows:

"Largo al factotum" from Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
          Luthando Qave

"All idea di quel metallo" from Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
          Alexander Lewis
          Luthando Qave

"Quel guardo, il cavaliere" from Gaetano Donizetti ’s Don Pasquale
          Haeran Hong

Mélodies passagères by Samuel Barber
     Puisque tout passe
     Un cygne avance sur l'eau tout entouré
     Tombeau dans un parc
     Le clocher chante
          Alexander Lewis

Selections Dichterliebe by Robert Schumann
     Im wunderschönen Monat Mai
     Aus meinen Tränen sprieße
     Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne
     Wenn ich in deine Augen seh
          Luthando Qave

"La fioraia fiorentina" by Gioachino Rossini
          Haeran Hong

"Venti Scudi" duet from Gaetano Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore
          Alexander Lewis
          Luthando Qave

"Saper Vorreste" from Giuseppe Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera
          Haeran Hong

"Ah, per sempre io ti perdei" from Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani
          Luthando Qave

"Là ci darem la mano" from W.A. Mozart’s Don Giovanni
          Haeran Hong
          Luthando Qave

Blue Mountain Ballads by Paul Bowles
     Heavenly Grass
     Lonesome Man
     The Cabin
     Sugar in the Cane
          Alexander Lewis

Lovely! As always we thank our donors and especially the Robinson-Broadhurst Foundation for your generous support, which makes this concert possible for all in our area to enjoy.

We hope to see you in Stamford on Sunday April 15th.