In Review > Concerts and Recitals

Bel Canto/Can Belto

New York Festival of Song | Merkin Concert Hall

On Tuesday, March 17 the music of Verdi, Rossini and Donizetti came together with the music of Musto, Corigliano and Harry Warren in the New York Festival of Song’s Bel Canto/Can Belto concert at Merkin Hall. The program was the culmination of a week-long residency at the Caramoor Center during which the five young artists, four singers and one pianist, planned and coached the concert with pianists and NYFOS co-founders Steven Blier and Michael Barrett. The result was a diverse repertoire that dove and soared, highlighting the promise of each fledgling artist as musician and communicator. 

The first half of the concert was dedicated to Italian song of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson and tenor Alec Carlson opened the concert with “In riva al mare,” a lovely duet by Alfredo Catalani. Verdi’s “Brindisi” introduced the authoritative baritone of Shea Owens, who has charm and an easy-sounding top range. Soprano Chelsea Morris lent her flawless legato and tear-tinged voice to Bellini’s “La ricordanza.”Carlson joined Morris for a charming duet from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix, a welcome, energetic alternative to more familiar duets from L’Elisir d’amore and Don Pasquale.  

From here, we catapulted to the twentieth century and the rich, adventurous harmonic language and superb poetry of its songs. In Franco Alfano’s “Non nascondere il segreto,” Owens pleaded with his friend to unburden his heart and reveal his secret, shrouding his voice in empathetic pain. Pianist Christopher Reynolds and Morris joined for Pizzetti’s dazzling “I pastori,” Reynolds showing the mastery of his instrument in every shade of Pizzetti’s misty harmonies. The two partnered again in an exquisite performance of Refice’s “Ombra di nube,” which Morris sang with desperation, imbuing her beautiful, lyric instrument with a magnetic edge. Dawson, who impressed with a large range and swift coloratura in Rossini’s “Bolero,” hypnotized the audience with a yearning and sensual performance of “Ulai laze yihie li ometz” by Jewish-Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. 

The forward-thinking harmonies of Alfano, Pizzetti and Castelnuovo-Tedesco set the stage for the second half of the concert which featured the music of Italian-American composers. John Musto’s blues-inspired “Penelope’s Song” was perfectly realized in Morris’s nonchalant and mysterious performance.  The dark-hued voice of Dawson and the bright sheen of Morris’ soprano created a plaintive chiaroscuro in “As summer brings a wistful breeze” from John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles. “This Music Is New” by Mark Adam and Mark Campbell was written for Blier’s wedding in 2012, but this was its first public, professional performance, sung with earnestness by Owens and with Blier at the piano. All four singers joined for Musto’s “Some Last Words” and Harry Warren’s “The Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish” and sang the intricate jazz-pop harmonies in perfect balance and with ease. Reynolds surprised everyone by emerging from the wings halfway through the latter and taking center stage for an enthusiastically received tap solo.

For an encore, the five young artists and Mr. Blier, who had spent the last week learning from and growing alongside one another, sang “Moon River” by Henry Mancini from Breakfast at Tiffany’sspacer 


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