Teatro alla Scala, I due Foscari

Teatro alla Scala, I due Foscari

Monday, May 23, 2011

MARVELOUSLY IN CONTEXT: Music is istill alive, in spite of it all...

By Francisco Chahín-Casanova
The Hellenic Music Foundation of New York presented last night, in celebration of the bicentennial of Franz Liszt a beautiful concert with Greek tenor Mario Zeffiri, accompanied at the piano by Mtro. Yannis Xilas. The event took place in the Episcopal Church of Christ and St. Stevens, in Manhattan.
Mr. Zeffiri presented an ambitious, well packed program by two authors: Richard Strauss and Franz Liszt.
Mario Zeffiri exhibited unheard of control of his craft from the very beginning to the very end of the evening: the music, text, technique, delivery and style, all concentrated in one action of his mind, which transformed the air which he exhaled into music and the purest expression of vocal art. A veritable Master Class in singing, all of it in context. Because this music is dated, and in the way in which Mr Zeffiri performed it, I dare say that Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss would have smiled approvingly in hearing it performed so beautifully and full of meaning.
None of the sterility of the age of the iPod and computer games was present in his music making ... THANK GOD. No gimmicks or distracting trickery in his presentation, just the text and the music between him and his audience. This things have their place in modern life, but not when it comes to this type of artistic expression... alas...
Disarmingly simple.
Mr Zeffiri was assisted ably at the piano by Mtro. Yannis Xilas, who interpreted as well the Intermezzo Op.117, No. 1 by Johannes Brahms, as well as a Nocturne for piano by Claude Debussy.
Finished the program, Mr. Zeffiri generously sang for the audience two encores by Bizet and Rimsky-Korsakov.
At the end the entire audience expressed their satisfaction with a standing ovation for both artists.
Mario Zeffiri, tenor
Yannis Xilas, accompanist
Bicentennial Concert Celebration of Franz Liszt birth
Church of Christ and St. Stevens
New York
First Part
RICHARD STRAUSS Zueignung Op. 10, no1
              Heimliche Aufforderrung Op. 27, no. 3
                                    Die Nacht Op 10, no. 3
                                    Ständchen Op.17, no. 2
JOHANNES BRAHMS Intermezzo Op117, no. 1 for piano
RICHARD STRAUSS Befreit, Op. 39 no. 4
Breit’ über mein Haupt, Op. 19 no.2
Liebeshymnus Op 32 , no.3
Second Part
CLAUDE DEBUSSY Nocturne, for piano solo
FRANZ LISZT Tre Sonetti di Petrarca
Pace non trovo
Benedetto sia ‘l giorno
I vidi in terra angelici costume

dedicated to excellence

Sunday, May 22, 2011


By Francisco Chahín-Casanova
25th April 2011.
This past March the 27th I had the good fortune, together with 400 other people, to attend a production of the Altamura-Caruso Foundation in the main nave of the Episcopal Church of Christ and St. Stephen of New York City.  Singing this very beautiful performance of Pergolessi’s La Serva Padrona, in the roles of Serpina and Uberto, respectively, were soprano  Anne Tormella, and baritone Stefanos Koroneos.  Maestro Michel Brousseau expertly conducted the Altamura Ensemble.
The production and staging of La Serva Padrona, under the experienced hand of Camille Coppola, acquired life, charm, and direction, always following the path marked by the musical beat of Pergolessi’s brilliant score. Under her direction and that of Maestro Brousseau’s accurate conducting, Ms. Tormella and Mr. Koroneos gave impressive vocal performances of this difficult score, paying attention to, and bringing forth each and every detail of the musical writing style of this epoch, which resulted in a delightful performance of an opera very much missed in the local theaters.

La Serva Padrona was originally conceived as short intermezzo for Pergolesi’s opera seria Il Prigionier Superbo so, we heard in the first part of the program baritone Larry Harris, and soprano Maria Knapik, who sang each four solos.  Mr. Harris sang four songs by F. P. Tosti, and Ms. Knapik four pieces by Dvorak, Chopin, Bizet and Cilèa.

The first thing that must be said here in regards to the performers is that they were all in top form that day and that, in this particular evening, Music was the Queen... thank God. Ms Tormella was enchanting as Serpina, singing with ease and filled with the spirit of the score, showing a beautiful full top voice which she uses intelligently. Mr Koroneos, with his large, dark voice, gave a performance, technically worth of a virtuoso, and full of expression and meaning.
Mr. Harris possesses a beautiful, rich baritone voice which he uses sensibly to achieve a high artistic result.  His legato singing makes for unforgettable Tosti phrasing. On the other hand, Ms. Knapik began with a very expressive interpretation of the Song to the Moon, from Rusalka, followed by the Seguidilla from Carmen, a song by Frederick Chopin, closing with Io sono l’umile ancella, showing throughout control, and knowledge of her craft. Good diction in all languages allowed her to put across very expressive and melodramatic phrasing, in the best sense of the word.
I was very happy to see parents in the audience, with their children, and the smiles in their     faces, showing the delight they had experienced during the entire afternoon.

We must applaud the well-guided efforts of the Altamura-Caruso Foundation, as they present these productions, keeping in mind the musical performances in their historical and stylistic perspective.

In the age of FaceBook, iPods, instant messaging and twits, people who want to present their own ideas on the stage and not that of the geniuses the gave us in inheritance this music and this craft, it is good to know that there are other people who understand what is historic and stylistic context, who like to work within it, and who are not afraid to do so.
In my opinion, this is what real talent is about: do the same thing that has been done... but make it look every time as if it had been written yesterday, expressly for your performance.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Altamura, for the magnificent musical gift you gave us in the performance we enjoyed this past March the 27th.
La Serva Padrona,
by Giovanni Battista Pergolessi (1710-1736),
Premiered 5th September 1733, Naples.
Serpina - Anne Tormella
Uberto - Stefanos Koroneos
The Altamura Ensemble
Mo. Michel Brousseau, conductor
Reggie Camille Coppola
First part: Concert.
Larry Harris, baritone; four songs by Tosti
Maria Knapik, soprano; Song to the Moon, Seguidille, Song by Chopin,
Io sono l’umile ancella.

dedicated to excellence