IN: Reviews

“Showstoppers” Offers Vocal Variety


Talents of the World, an international concert organization, presented six singers and two piano accompanists in a program of opera, operetta, Broadway and song on Friday evening June 7th at Jordan Hall. Three sopranos, mezzo, tenor and baritone sang solos and ensembles from a repertoire spanning the years 1832-1999, this in a mixture of Czech, English, French, Italian, Neapolitan, Russian and “Cat” languages. The opening selection, a three-part divided version of Musetta’s “Quando m’en vo,” was a recall of the practice done by The Three Tenors in 1990 of “Nessun Dorma”; the Three Sopranos, Zhanna Alkhazova, Meredith Hansen and Olga Lisovskaya all sang beautifully and in true character.

Baritone David Gvinianidze offered the champagne toast to his party guests in Prince Orlofsky’s Fledermaus salute with rich, warm tone. Soprano Meredith Hansen followed with a ravishing performance of Rusalka’s “Song to the Moon,” sung in expertly-pronounced Czech and brilliant high notes. Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Kinder favored the audience with the rarely-heard “Nobles Seigneurs” from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, this with appropriate dramatic action and good French. Her portrayal was unfortunately flawed by generally insecure intonation. Perhaps, she should have sung the aria in the composer’s lower transposed key, this done after the 1836 premiere when the rôle was recast as a mezzo, rather than soprano, part.  

Soprano Zhanna Alkhazova sang as her first solo Puccini’s “In Questa Reggia”. It is a risky choice for any soprano to tread the domain of Birgit Nilsson’s legendary Turandot, usually resulting in a less-than-satisfactory performance. Alkhazova should consider more lyric fare in showcasing her essentially first-rate voice. Tenor Giovanni Formisano swaggered onstage to show his prowess in the Duke of Mantua’s “La Donna è Mobile” from Rigoletto with all the confidence of the libertine character. Usually sung by Formisano as an encore, this aria burst with exuberance capped by a prolonged, thrilling high B natural. Soprano Olga Lisovskaya then sang the lilting waltz song “Je Veux Vivre” from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with great charm and easy facility. The chromatic passages were skillfully timed, the lyric phrases melting one into another, all culminating on a sparkling high C at the aria’s zenith.

The ensembles were nine in number. On the printed program, all six soloists participated in a spirited “Libiamo” from La Traviata as Act I Finale. The duets were three from Italian and French operas, one duet a Russian romance. The famous Lakmé duo was full of lush, exotic harmonies by Lisovskaya and Kinder. The Trovatore Act IV confrontation duet by Gvinianidze and Hansen was exciting, especially with Hansen’s fabulous high C’s. The ensemble did suffer, dramatically, as Gvinianidze kept his face looking at his non-memorized lines on a music stand. The Elisir d’Amore duo with Lisovskaya and Formisano was a comic triumph, superbly acted and solidly sung with scintillating agility and a knock-out unison high B flat at the final cadence. The final duet, the Russian piece by Zubov, was quietly murmured in lovely blend by Alkhazova and Gvinianidze, albeit that this selection was largely unknown to most in the audience.

The second half of the concert had several solos and song combination arrangements. Kinder’s modern composition, “Alto’s Lament” premiered in 1999, was most interesting, but lost some humor elements textually as the English enunciation did not project well to out-lying rows of sets. Alkhazova brought to her voice a divine lyricism in “Summertime” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, spinning top notes in irresistible subtle colors. Hansen’s saucy Czardas from Die Fledermaus (sung in English) was aristocratic in delivery, and precise in coloratura figurations, all leading to a red-hot finish on top A’s, B’s and a crowning high D. Lisovskaya embraced Cunegonde’s “Glitter and be gay” with panache, tongue-in-cheek self-pity in spoken segments, and wonderful incandescence in high-lying phrases. In this aria, she was truly “Queen of the top E-flats!” Formisano sang one of his signature Neapolitan songs ‘Core ‘Ngrato” with idiomatic bitterness of emotion, coupled with seamless legato and effortless top notes. His other solo, Calaf’s “Nessun Dorma,” rang the rafters of the hall with clarion volume and ultimate security, a most worthy reminder of those unforgettable performances of the aria by Luciano Pavarotti.  

The program concluded with three selections recast in multiple: the ridiculous “Cat” duet was built around all four women’s voices with Gvinianidze as an on-looker. Eliza Doolittle’s “I could have danced all night” was a divisi-à-tre between Hansen, Alkhazova and Lisovskaya in a rousing rendition.  

(Stephen Kosherman photo)

An all-inclusive chorus-like version of DiCapua’s “O Sole Mio” served as the “after-dinner mint” for the group’s encore.

The piano accompanists for the “Showstoppers” event were Yukiko Oba and Victoria Ulanovskaya, both very proficient in their playing support of the singers. Oba’s accompaniments were ace note-accurate, but a bit stiff and unyielding in tempo, robbing her phrases of more derivable flexibility of rubato. 

Ulanovskaya’s playing was more elastic in musical stretching of note values, but she seemed not to know how the operatic pieces’ orchestrations were meant to flow. Further, the volume of her playing was excessively too loud, at times almost drowning put the singers’ voices. Lastly, regarding on-stage behavior, she needs to remember that overt scene-stealing at the keyboard is unprofessional, and that in vocal accompanying, the singer is the star.  

All in all, the concert was a delightful success, the audience giving clamorous ovations to the artists. hearty kudos go to David Gvinianidze, the president and founder of “Talents of the World,” for his tireless efforts in bringing this level of performance to metropolitan Boston. 

The final piece, an all-company number was “Be My Love” from the 1949 film The Toast of New Orleans, made permanently associated with glorious voice of tenor Mario Lanza. The song was a joy to hear, and, obviously, tremendous fun by all the singers onstage.

Vocal coach Bradley Pennington is founder and AD of Boston Bel Canto Opera. He has worked with some of the people he has reviewed in this piece.

1 Comment »

1 Comment [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. The performance was indeed a success..very enjoyable for the audience.
    As an opera singer myself, I support Mr. Pennington’s insightful review.
    I appreciate also the work that went into organizing this concert. Congratulations to all!

    Comment by Joanna Porackova — July 8, 2019 at 10:39 am

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