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Quinn Kelsey in Il Trovatore

Master Class with Steven Blier 2009

* Program *
Thomson's "A Prayer to Saint Catherine"
Alex Mansoori, tenor and Tamara Sanikidze, piano

"Voici des roses" from La Damnation de Faust
Evan Boyer, bass and Suzy Smith, piano

Duparc's "Phidylé"
Paul Scholten, baritone and Miaomiao Wang, piano

"Piangete voi...Al dolce guidami" from Anna Bolena
Lara Ciekiewicz, soprano and Keun-a Lee, piano

Weill's "J'attends un navire"
Caitlin Mathes, mezzo-soprano and Stephanie Rhodes, piano

* Notes * 
Steven Blier gave a master class for the Merola Opera Program last night at Herbst Theatre. The evening included art songs, one proper aria, and "Voici des roses," which Blier claimed was at least sort of an aria because the Met had done La Damnation last season. Alex Mansoori started off with the Virgil Thomson song about Saint Catherine of Siena, set to a poem by Kenneth Koch. The tenor seemed very comfortable with Blier, and in fact they have known each other for some time. Blier suggested that Mansoori's shy nervousness at the beginning of the song was a bit too real and the paranoid edge needed was missing. Blier also had the singer rein in his movements. Evan Boyer sang the Berlioz next, Blier got him to take his voice from "nice to rattly" to "cool to nice." One could hear Boyer get his vibrato under control. Baritone Paul Scholten elegantly sang Duparc's "Phidylé" a half step lower than Miaomiao Wang's music, and she transposed the work by sight quite impressively.

Lara Ciekiewicz sang the mad scene from Anna Bolena after 5 hours of rehearsal for Così fan tutte. She sounded strained at times, and her accompanist, Keun-a Lee, was flashy in her playing. Ciekiewicz's vibrato compromised her intonation, but when Blier got her to put less pressure on her voice, she sounded quite lovely. Equally, when Lee supported Ciekiewicz, rather than making a huge sound, things were much improved. The performance ended with Caitlin Mathes, singing a Weill song in French. The piece sat very well in her voice up until the end, though her vowels were sloppy. When she sang the song again with Blier playing, taking his advice to be less angry and more confident, the effect was immediate and gorgeous.

* Tattling *
Steven Blier was perfectly funny as usual. Particularly amusing was when he told Boyer to think he was "a fabulous jazz French horn player" as he sang.

After the class was a reception in the Green Room. I had an engaging conversation with Merola's apprentice stage director, Fernando Parra Bortí, in which I admitted my utter ignorance of high fashion. His infectious enthusiasm about the program, the other artists, opera, and languages was heartening.