In light of the glut of overcooked “concept operas” these days, it can be an extraordinary treat to hear opera scenes in which the gifts of the performers-- vocal, dramatic and pianistic, combine to give us the essence of what the composer and librettist intended. Such was the case on Sunday when the artists of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program showed their stuff, without benefit of sets and costumes, and without the dubious benefit of videos and machines. The program was created in 1980 by James Levine with the mission of identifying and developing young talent in the world of opera--singers, coaches and pianists. Proof of their success is the vast number of graduates of the program who are dazzling audiences worldwide. The recent partnership between The Juilliard School and The Metropolitan Opera has only added luster to both programs.
Here was a golden opportunity to see and hear these young artists in a variety of roles as they hone their already remarkable craft. Tenor Paul Appleby showed his comic side as a very fine Ferrando, with baritone Evan Hughes as an equally fine Guglielmo and bass Ryan Speedo Green as the older and wiser Don Alfonso, with Mr. Wagorn accompanying on the harpsichord. Let it be noted that Mr. Wagorn has a special flair for Mozart, as he accompanied soprano Emalie Savoy as Fiordiigi, this time on the piano. Later, Mr. Appleby tackled the role of Tom Rakewell and won, with soprano Layla Claire’s Anne Truelove and mezzo Renee Tatum’s Baba the Turk competing for his attention and Natalia Katyukova offering piano support. Further along in the program he excelled as Benedict with gorgeous soprano Wallis Giunta as his Beatrice, accompanied by the versatile Bryan Wagorn on the piano.
Ms. Claire later did justice to the role of the inconsolable Dorinda in a scene from Handel’s “Orlando”, accompanied again by Mr. Wagorn. Ms. Tatum was glorious as Medoro and soprano Lei Xu, whose voice is as supple as her figure and as bright as a penny, sang the role of Angelica. The three voices were perfectly balanced as one enhanced the other. Ms. Xu also made a stunning Juliette and was totally convincing in her scene with Romeo in the Gounod. First year artist Mario Chang’s Romeo was excellent and we are looking forward to hearing him again.
Tenor Alexander Lewis exhibited true comic flair as Nemorino with baritone Luthando Qave an equally impressive Belcore, while Alexandra Naumenko accompanied with panache. Mr. Lewis was heard later as Count Almaviva with the adorable Elliott Madore as the mischievous Figaro, this time with Ms. Naumenko essaying both piano and harpsichord. Mr. Madore and Ms. Xu made superb musical sense of a scene from Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande”, an opera that had heretofore eluded me. Ms. Katyukova’s pianisme was perfect.
Baritone Evan Hughes also has a delightfully humorous side as seen in a scene from Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeri”. Ms. Tatum’s Isabella was memorable for its cleanly articulated coloratura. Bass Ryan Speedo Green, accompanied by Mr. Wagorn, was a powerful Blitch in his quest for divine forgiveness in Floyd’s “Susannah”.
The program came to a close with one of those tickling Rossini sextets “Fredda ed immobile” from “Il Barbierre di Siviglia” that sends the audience out humming this not unwelcome earworm. Ms. Giunta was captivating as Rosina; Mr. Lewis hilarious as the “drunken” Count; Mr. Qave a riot as Figaro pushing Mr. Green’s Bartolo around. This time, Ms. Katyukova did the pianistic honors while Mr. Wagorn put in an appearance as the arresting officer.
Scenes were directed by Stephen Wadsworth, Fabrizio Melano and Gina Lapinski. All the scenes were directed with style and substance and allowed each member of the program to shine. What a grand asset to the opera world is the Lindemann Program. Bravissimi tutti!
© meche kroop for The Opera Insider
17 hours ago