Brooklyn opera manager introduces Broadway star
By Nino Pantano
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The JW Marriott Essex House located at Central Park South was the elegant venue of a special operatic recital by Opera Index Award Winners on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 12.
Opera Index President Murray Rosenthal made the opening remarks and to capsulize them briefly, he proudly asserted that many dollars have assisted many singers to pursue their dreams of an operatic career for over 30 years!
Norman Garrett sang an eloquent impassioned “Avant de quitter ces lieux” from Gounod’s Faust, using his beautiful baritone as if weaving a tapestry of gold.
Soprano Felicia Moore sang “Morro, ma prima in grazia” from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera with a robust vibrato and like the 19th century legends, a very mezzo sounding lower register and a higher register with brilliant bursts of glory.
Yohan Li used his warm expressive baritone in a nobly sung “O du mein holder Abernstern” from Wagner’s Tannhauser. Tenor Mingjie Lie captivated us with a silken “Si, ritrovarla io giuro” from Rossini’s La Cenerentola.
Soprano Sydney Mancasola strolled through the tables enchanting us with a radiant, seemingly effortless “Musetta’s Waltz” from Puccini’s La Boheme.
Musa Ngqungwana used his regal baritone in an eloquent reading of “Vi ravvisso, o luoghi ameni” and the cabaletta from Bellini’s La Sonnambula.
Tenor Michele Angelini, fresh from his triumph in Florence, Italy is a proud Brooklynite. Angelini’s singing of “Ah! Mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment with its nine treacherous high “C”s was sung with power, ease and elan. The audience devoured it like Junior’s cheesecake!
Virginie Verrez used her seamless mezzo in a beautifully crafted and poignant “Must the winter come so soon?” from Barber’s Vanessa.
Ying Fang sang with coloratura’s grace and ease in “Prendi, per me sei libero” from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore. Her stratospheric finale still haunts the memory. Her vocal latitude and longitude took us all on a delightful journey!
The accompanist to the singers was the gifted pianist Michael Fennelly. Daniel Burstein, currently Frosch the jailer in the Met Opera’s new Die Fledermaus, spoke of his recent introduction to opera and his gratitude to Rosalind Elias in Follies. Composer and Vice President of Opera Index Philip Hagemann spoke of Rosalind Elias’s great career and Murray Rosenthal read many congratulatory letters.
Brooklyn’s operatic man about town, radio host and opera manager Ken Benson presented legendary mezzo Elias from the Metropolitan Opera, who is currently in Stephen Sondheim’s revival of Follies, with the Distinguished Achivement Award. Benson spoke eloquently of her and said she truly is as great a human being as she is a sublime artist!
Elias spoke about her humble origins from a large Lebanese-American family in New England and her father, who associated the stage with “bad girls!” She advised the young singers to always be prepared and not sing roles that they should probably do later on.
Members of the Follies cast from her table serenaded Elias a capella with Sondheim’s ”She a Broadway Baby,” and rising mezzo Jennifer Cano Johnson and Broadway's Leah Horowitz sang an exquisite duet of Sondheim’s “One More Kiss.”
The glittering audience had many notables including PBS’s Midge Woolsey and her spouse Dr. Jerry Stoltz. We especially thank Stephen De Maio from the Gerda Lissner Foundation and Sachi Liebergesell from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation both united with Opera Index to assist young singers. Duane Printz of Teatro Grattacielo fresh from her recent triumph in Franco Alfano's Sakuntala and celebrating its 20th anniversary was in attendance and Opera Index Vice President Janet Stovin was celebrating a birthday.
Savoring it all was legendary soprano Martina Arroyo (Martina Arroyo Foundation), who received a special mention as a recent honoree at the Presidential Awards at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Her dad Demetrio was an engineer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and supported her music lessons and kept the family afloat in those days.
A splendid dinner followed as we chatted with soprano legends Elinor Ross, Elaine Malbin and Lucina Amara, Maestro Eve Queler from Opera Orchestra of New York, Conductor Stephen Phebus and actress Linda Howes, Maestra Mara Waldman from the Brooklyn-based The Encompass New Opera Theater, Gloria Gari from the Giulio Gari Foundation, Met-mezzo Jane Shaulis, Joseph Gasperac and Cesare Santeramo all from Opera Index. Jason R. Hammond, President and Executive Producer of Mondall Films at our table, was a most affable dinner companion as were Joyce Greenberg, Karl Michaelis, presenter of The Gerda Lissner Charitable Fund Award, Michael Fornabaio and George Voorhis from Columbia University.
Bill Ronayne from the Mario Lanza Society, who also lives in Brooklyn, gave us a lift back to Carroll Gardens as visions of operatic sugarplums instead of the subway danced in our heads!