* Notes *
This year's Day at Merola was Tuesday, beginning with a lunch in Lower Level Café of the War Memorial Opera House. A couple of members of the Opera Standees Association who are also sponsors of tenor Alexander Lewis kindly invited me to join their table. Mr. Lewis conversed with us about how he stayed in Jane Eaglen's house as a kid, his voice changing, The Ring, countertenors, and Mozart. It was especially endearing when he related his realization that as a tenor rather than a baritone there was no role for him in Le Nozze di Figaro. Alex is going to move to New York soon, to participate in the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. At lunch I also had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Thompson, the one bass of the Merola Program this summer.
It was difficult to decide between the L'Elisir d'Amore rehearsal, Sheri Greenawald's master class, and Mark Morash's master class, as all of these occurred in the first time slot, starting at 1:30pm. I ended up in the Chorus Room for Greenawald's master class, accompanied by Jenna Douglas. Colleen Brooks sang "Wie Du Warst" from Der Rosenkavalier, Eleazar Rodríguez sang "Here I Stand" from The Rake's Progress, and Kevin Thompson sang "O, wie will ich triumphieren" from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Everyone sang well, but with Rodríguez, one could only feel regret for not making it to his performances as Tom Rakewell for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Greenawald had Rodríguez concentrate on where the rests were in the music, and illuminating the text.
Kathy Cathcart gave a master class accompanied by David Hanlon that started with Ryan Kuster singing the "Abendlied" from Das Rheingold. Kuster's voice is very bright. Janai Brugger-Orman sang Menotti's "Steal Me, Sweet Thief," from the one act radio opera The Old Maid and the Thief. Cathcart got Brugger-Orman to sing with a good deal more energy, and difference was very clear. Dan Kempson sang "Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen," Harlequin's aria from Ariadne auf Naxos with beauty.
For the second half of the day, I went up a flight of stairs to the Ballet Studio for master classes with Martin Katz and Steven Blier. Katz focused on Bel Canto. Natalia Katyukova accompanied Robin Flynn, who sang "Deh! tu, bell'anima" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Ryan Kuster, who sang "Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni" from La sonnambula. For both of these, a lot of time was spent on the recitative before the arias, and Katz got a good laugh out of the audience by translating "E vicin la fattoria," then having Kuster sing the line. Renée Rapier sang "Cruda Sorte" as she did for the Auditions for the General Director, but with Michael Spassov as her accompanist instead of David Hanlon. Rapier's dark sound was very sassy, and Katz got her to sound lighter and more bubbly.
Blier's master class involved art song, as one would imagine, and he joked that the day's event should have been called "Death by Aria." We heard Colleen Brooks sing Schoenberg's "Galathea," which she wrote her thesis on, with Jenna Douglas playing piano. At one point Blier had Michael Spassov lie on the ground so that Brooks could sing to him, and this worked well, though might have been somewhat embarrassing. Spassov certainly was a good sport. Accompanied by David Hanlon, Daniel Montenegro sang "Canción al arbol del olvido." Abigail Santos Villalobos sang "La tarántula é un bicho mu malo" from Giménez's La tempranica and Reynaldo Hahn's "La lune blanche." Her voice is pretty, and Michael Spassov's playing was pleasantly dry. The final song of the evening was "Pierrots Tanzlied," which Dan Kempson sang with great beauty. Natalia Katyukova's playing was also impressive.
* Tattling *
As soon as I walked into the lunch room I was asked if I was from Korea, and can only imagine I was mistaken for Hye Jung Lee. Even though I answered in the negative, it was still assumed I was a Merolina, and I was directed to the person with the name tags. Evidently only Merolini and Amici di Merola get them, as I was bluntly informed.
The attendees of this event are, for the most part, the die-hard, obsessive fans of opera. There was aggressive jockeying for the front row seats of each master class, such that we were made to leave the room before Blier's class, for safety purposes.