Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Merola Grand Finale
After close to three months of coaching in everything from languages to stage movement, two dozen young singers from around the world took the stage of the San Francisco Opera House and proceeded to sing their hearts out. Janos Gereben at SF Classical Voice writes that it was "a group without a weak link" (click here for the entire review), and though I'm not prepared to be that generous in praise, it's close to being true.
Everyone who was anyone was in attendance, including Sid Chen (above left) who has a beautiful bass voice which he often uses to sing modern classical music, particularly Meredith Monk (click here for his seminal "Standing Room" blog). He was joined at the empty box bar by "manprano" (above right), a newly arrived San Francisco countertenor who was just selected to sing in the famous Chanticleer chorus (click here for his blog, "The Ubiquitous Hobbit").
Thanks to one of my all-time favorite San Francisco Opera choristers, Charlie Lichtman and I were given comp tickets for the party afterwards in the Green Room at the Veterans Building next door.
Though I already knew after three weeks of daily rehearsal that the "Don Giovanni" principals all had great voices, there were still some wonderful surprises when we got to hear the "Giovanni" chorus take over the stage as soloists, including Renee Tatum above who sang a long scene from Massenet's "Werther"...
...with Nathaniel Peake (above) giving a knockout rendition of Goethe's poet.
The charming New Zealand tenor James Benjamin Rodgers (above) did a sensational job in a scene from Barber's "Vanessa"...
...where he was paired with Amanda Majeski (above) whose voice is seriously ready for prime time. She filled the huge opera house and it was beautiful.
Though Leah Crocetto was deservedly many people's favorite of the evening for her two knockout Verdi arias, my favorite voice belonged to Rena Harms (above). It's a completely subjective opinion, but there is something about her sound that makes me very happy, even though she doesn't have it completely under control yet. Her big scene from "Arabella" was just plain exquisite, though I felt terrible for YoungJoo An, the Korean baritone playing her lover Mandryka. That character has to be one of the most ungrateful leading romantic male parts in all of opera, ugly and barking. Plus, you have to sing it over a monster Strauss orchestra.
Good luck, everyone, in your very difficult, competitive and rewarding careers.