Manchester Music Festival Review

Manchester Music Festival Review

Opera Review: Introducing the opera stars of tomorrow
By Jim Lowe

Staff Writer | August 20,2016

MANCHESTER — Four brilliant up-and-coming young stars sang opera favorites Thursday at Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavilion, closing Manchester Music Festival’s 42nd summer season. All either were participants or had graduated from the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Despite all having serious experience at the Met or other important opera houses, they were developing rather than finished artists. Perhaps the most experienced, Australian-born soprano Rachelle Durkin was completely at home in Musetta’s aria, “Quando m’en vo,” from Puccini’s “La bohème.” She used her brilliant voice expressively, and with flair. She was also totally at home in Duke Ellington’s “I’m beginning to see the light.”

All four singers were accompanied with enthusiasm by pianist Caren Levine, also a product of the Lindemann program, an excellent musician and assistant conductor at the Met. She clearly was the “conductor” for Thursday’s concert.

Bass-baritone Brandon Cedel not only had a beautiful dark voice, he gave real musical and expressive depth to the bel canto “Vi ravviso o luoghi ameni” from Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.” He also proved delightful in the spiritual “Sweet Jesus,” arranged by Levine.

Clearly the audience favorite, Chinese-born tenor Kang Wang belted out tenor bonbons with his big brassy voice, but often lacked finesse. Still, he showed great sensitivity in the ensembles, and his “Che gelida manina” from “La bohème” was wonderfully expressive. His unannounced encore was even better, more dimensional. This tenor is one to watch.

Mezzo-soprano Renée Tatum, another Met veteran, proved especially effective in French repertoire. Her “Amours! Viens aider ma faiblesse” from Saint-Saens’ “Samson et Delila” was luscious and dramatic, as was her “O ma lyre immortelle” from Gounod’s “Sapho.”

There were definite signs of youth as well. To a one, their singing was consistently too loud for the room. And none of them were particularly good in Mozart or earlier works.

Conversely, the Romantic era ensembles were largely excellent. Of course, the beloved duet, “Au fond du temple saint” from Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers,” with Wang and Cedel, was a delight. And the closing “Bell Nuit (Barcarolle)” from Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffman” was a joy of lyrical beauty.

Manchester folks are clearly enjoying playing a role in the development of these young singers — as they should.


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