Saturday September 29, 2007 - During the years I worked at Tower, several of my co-workers were aspiring singers, musicians, composers and writers. Taking a retail gig is often a necessity on the road to a successful career in the arts. And so I had the pleasure of working with people like Melanie Bonnefoux (daughter of City Ballet's Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux) who has published two vampire novels at a very young age; composer Yazuru Sadashige who plays bass for the band CHANGING MODES; counter-tenor and monstre sacre Benjamin Marcantoni; beautiful blonde chanteuse Suzanne Carrico; composer Matt Fuerst who wrote the score for the Albert Evans ballet BROKEN PROMISE, and the extraordinary guitarist and composer Brian DuFord.
Dinyar Vania has been singing Rodolfo in BOHEME at New York City Opera this season and today was the last performance of the run. Dinyar worked very briefly at Tower and we all liked his big, outgoing personality; I was curious to see if he has the voice to match. I was also interested in the Musetta, Elizabeth Caballero, who sang a really superb Donna Elvira here a couple of seasons back. I had never seen this production which is set during the early months of World War I. It is a simple and convincing telling of the well-known story; I especially like the way the garret set receded as Act I drew to a close. The lovers step onto the bare stage and sing the end of the love duet as snow begins to fall. The women at Cafe Momus have a flapper look, and the third act is set at a railway terminus.
Ari Pelto, who led a really good TRAVIATA at NYCO a few seasons back, gave an passionate and tender reading of the score; he allowed the singers to linger on favorite notes and phrases but he also - at a few points - swamped them with a little too much orchestral volume. A note in praise of NYCO's fine children's chorus; the Met can never seem to find kids who can really sing but NYCO has a lively bunch of juvenile belters.
Dinyar is a big, robust guy. His voice is very clear and melodious; no trace of wobble, no pitch troubles. He never pushes the tone and he avoids the strangulated sound that besets many of our more prominent tenors today. Warmth and an Italianate glow to the sound are big assets as is Dinyar's sincerity of delivery. His singing has an emotional quality that stays within the framework of the music: no lacquered-on effects. His phrasing is generous, his top-C in "Che gelida manina" is the genuine article. Later he takes the gentleman's route with the end of the love duet, harmonizing with Mimi's top C to really lovely effect. Dinyar modulates the tone well and he used a particularly attractive piano effect on 'stagione dei fior' in Act III as the lovers are on the brink of parting.
The performance also featured a very impressive Marcello from Brian Mulligan. Brian strikes me as a very natural singer...he just opens his mouth and lets the voice out with great freedom and warmth. It is a beautiful sound and again the word generous comes to mind. Right from curtain-rise, Brian served notice of his easy tone production and deeply musical interpretation. His boyish face and open stage manner fit the vocal personality to a T and there was a sense that Musetta may have been the slightly older woman who introduced the young painter to the joys and tribulations of love (and sex). Great job, Brian!
Very fine performances of Colline (Young Bok Kim, remembered for his excellent Marquis de la Force in Juilliard's DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES) and Schaunard (Raymond Ayers in this important and sometimes under-valued role). In this production, Schaunard has joined up and appears in uniform in the final scene. Veterans Don Yule and William Ledbetter, both of whom have been singing at NYCO since I started going there in the mid-1960s, provided amusing vignettes as Benoit and Alcindoro respectively.
Inna Dukach was an attractive Mimi; her vibrato won't be to all tastes but she earns high marks for her astonishingly lovely and sustained rendering of the phrase "di primavere" in Mimi's act I narrative...the kind of note you never forget. She scored again with a very impressive messa di voce on the penultimate note of "Addio senza rancor"; earlier in Act III she & Brian Mulligan really let their voices and emotions take flight in their duet. Ms. Caballero's Musetta was very broadly done and she seemed to be pushing her voice a little which was not necessary; her brilliant top-B at the end of the ensemble reprise of the Waltz was impressive. I did feel this expressive singer might be better able to show her stuff in Mimi's music, a role which is also in her repertoire.
Having been up til all hours the previous night celebrating Lisette's birthday I must say I had to drag myself to the theatre for this performance but I was determined to catch Dinyar in this run. I sat waiting for the show to start thinking 'another BOHEME...' while wishing I had a diet Coke to keep me from dozing. But as soon as the curtain rose and Brian Mulligan started to sing I felt much better. The opera weaves its spell after hearing it hundred of times over the past 40+ years. It still makes me cry.
I said hello to Dinyar afterwards and he told me he will be singing at the Gala on Tuesday night which is another good reason for me to be there.