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Adler Fellows Gala Concert 2010

Adler-Fellows-Bows-2010 * Notes *
The Adler Fellows Gala Concert at Herbst Theatre last night involved much repertoire in the French language, there were no arias from Wagner or Strauss. It was refreshing to see the orchestra on the stage as they started the concert with the overture from Ruslan and Lyudmila. Maya Lahyani was the consummate singer/actress as she performed "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila. Her dark, husky tones suited the role. When she went on to sing Carmen opposite of Brian Jagde in "C'est toi! C'est moi!" in the second half, she was also incredible, the fatalism of the character was apparent. Jagde sounded bright and reedy here, as he did for "E lucevan le stele."

Austin Kness sang "È sogno? o realtà," Ford's lyric baritone aria from Falstaff, heartily. On the other hand, Sara Gartland labored to sing "Ah rendetemi la speme...Qui la voce" from Il Puritani. Her voice is distinctive, and she sounded better in her duet with Kness, "Étranger, te voilà, comme tu l'avais dit!" I am not familiar with the Massenet opera this piece is from, Thaïs, but from this excerpt it seemed rather absurd.

Ryan Belongie and Susannah Biller sang "Io t'abbraccio" from Rodelinda with great beauty. There were a few bars in which they did not sound perfectly in tune with each other, but they recovered quickly. The harpsichord, played by Allen Perriello, was lovely. After the intermission Belongie sang "Venga pur, minacci e frema" from Mitridate, Re di Ponto. He sounded pretty, but at times he was hard to hear. Susannah Biller, on the other hand, was clear and strong in Ophelia's mad scene in Thomas' Hamlet.

The most impressive singers were Leah Crocetto and David Lomelí. Crocetto sang "È strano...Ah, fors'è lui...Sempre libera" admirably and Lomelí sounded incredibly robust from off stage. Their duet from Guillaume Tell was likewise fine. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the concert was the end, when Lomelí sang "Nessun dorma," with Tamara Sanikidze playing the celeste. It was especially moving when the other Adlers came in as the chorus.

* Tattling * 
There was some talking during the music. I was seated by a person who was so large that she could not put her arms inside the armrests of the seat. Her left elbow would have easily been touching me if I were less petite. I felt quite grateful to be small, but I did have to stay still in order not to disturb the established equilibrium.

Heidi Melton's Salon at the Rex

Melton_heidi_second_photo * Notes *
Soprano Heidi Melton gave a recital with pianist John Churchwell for the Salons at the Rex series yesterday evening. The first half of Melton's performance consisted of art songs by Sibelius and Korngold. As far as the pieces of the former, "Tuol Laulaa Neitonen" was rather dreamy, while "Hiljainen Kaupunki" had an otherworldly quality. One was impressed by how Churchwell used his breath to play, the phrasing was clear, and he absolutely attacked "Hjertats." Korngold's Lieder des Abschieds, Opus 14 were moving. Melton's voice is creamy and strong, and she was never overwhelmingly loud. The second half of the evening consisted of cabaret and torch songs, which Melton sang with verve. The Kurt Weill and Irving Berlin were especially great, but Melton was engaging in every single number.

* Tattling *
The recital was sold out, even though Adler Concert was programed for the same night. The audience was well-behaved, there was only the slightest bit of talking during the last piece. Melton was very aware of the time-constraint she was under, and at one point asked how we were doing on time. I believe it was jumping clapping man that exclaimed "We've got all night!"

Elza van den Heever Interview

Evdh-full-length-smaller-version Soprano Elza van den Heever (pictured left) is currently an Ensemblemitglied at Oper Frankfurt, but as been in San Francisco this month for Vier letzte Lieder at San Francisco Symphony and a recital presented by San Francisco Performances. She sings Elsa in Bayerische Staatsoper's Lohengrin this January, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and Leonora in Il Trovatore at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux from February to April, Vier letzte Lieder with the London Symphony Orchestra next March, Antonia in Les contes d'Hoffmann and Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito at Oper Frankfurt in April through June, Verdi Requiem with the Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester at the Alte Oper Frankfurt in May, and finishes the season as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte at Opéra national de Paris in June and July. The Opera Tattler caught up with van den Heever before a rehearsal.

How are you enjoying San Francisco?
It is great, this is where I lived for more than 10 years, so it is like coming home. I spent one week in San Francisco just to be here, and the rest of my time has been rehearsing, first with San Francisco Symphony and now for the recital on Sunday. Sheri Greenawald is still my primary teacher, so I have spent a lot of time with her.

Where did you live in San Francisco?
Out in the Sunset for 6 years, because that's where the San Francisco Conservatory of Music was, and in Civic Center for 5 years.

What do you miss most about this city?
Climbing hills, you don't realize what a difference this makes until you move away and see how flat other places are. You get into this fit zone! There is such a health conciousness in the Bay Area, and an awareness about how what you put into your body matters. San Francisco is also so close to nature, in a couple hours you can be in Point Reyes, for instance.

How was it singing with San Francisco Symphony this time around?
Michael Tilson Thomas is one of my mentors, he gave me such particular care, since he knows Vier letzte Lieder so well. Since there is only one soloist in this, unlike the 8 in Mahler's 8th, Michael Tilson Thomas really took me under his wing.

How are you liking Frankfurt?
It actually has a lot of greenery. In a way it is like a provincial town with high-rises, as soon as you get out of downtown it is less urban than you would think. At the same time, it is the banking capital of Germany, so it is comsompolitan and diverse.

How about Oper Frankfurt?
It is wonderful. It is an important house and I feel lucky to be able to try all these big roles there for the first time. For new productions we get 7 weeks of rehearsal, and then 8 to 10 performances, which is great.

You were the first-prize winner in the 2008 Seattle Opera Wagner Competition. Are you planning on going in that direction as far as repertoire?
That was a lot of pressure! It was my first and last competition! I was really glad to win, especially based on just the arias I did from Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, the only Wagner operas I will sing from right now. As far as repertoire, I want to keep all my options open, to sing as much as is right for me. I'm only 31 so I have lots of time, and I'd rather be prudent with my voice.

Do you have a favorite composer?
Right now I am really enjoying Verdi, he really lets the voice fly and I feel a special affinity for him. I am working on parts from Otello, the Requiem, and Il Trovatore at the moment.

Who do you look up to?
I look up to my colleagues, especially the ones that are of the same age as me, because they make me want to work harder and strive further. My absolute favorite singer is Maria Callas though. I know it is a cliché, but she was truly great.

Your San Francisco debut in Don Giovanni has been in cinemas and was broadcast on public television. How do you feel about live simulcasts?
That's right! The Met HD Broadcasts are amazing, they are so impressive. They do make me a bit nervous, I hope people don't cancel their subscriptions and watch them instead of going to the opera house. As a performer, it does make you all the more nervous to be recorded live, since most of media we see or hear are edited to perfection.

Do you feel pressure to be able to move and act well?
Yes, there is pressure. This was one of the great things about being in Merola, we had movement lessons. But I still can't dance, I have two left feet, and I always find I want to lead!

Are there singers in your family?
No, but my family is artistic. My mother was an actress and now a producer and my father is a film-maker. I have a photographer, a painter, and a chef as brothers.

I heard you also wanted to be a chef? How did you pick singing as a career?
Yes, I didn't know what I was in for! [Laughs] I figured I could a chef at any age but if I wanted to be a singer I would have to start training young.

What do you like to cook?
I like to go to the grocery store with no idea of what I'm going to get, so I can see what is in season. I like to be creative with vegetables, but I don't specialize in a particular type of cuisine. I never follow a recipe!