BWW Reviews: Russian Opera Workshop Programs Begin With RUSSIAN ROMANCES
Ghenady Meirson's annual Russian Opera Workshop was held this year at Academy of Vocal Arts near Rittenhouse Square, from June 3 through June 27. The first public performance, on July 24, was RUSSIAN ROMANCES, a collection of Russian song, mostly by Rachmaninov, performed by the students of the Workshop. Meirson is perhaps better known in the area as a gifted pianist and as a member of the vocal faculties at both Curtis and Academy of Vocal Arts, but he is also perhaps the preeminent expositor of the Russian vocal repertoire in America, and he does that through the annual Russian Opera Workshop programs.
Prior to the recital, noted opera composer Daron Hagen gave a public lecture on FRANCESCA DA RIMINI, the Rachmaninov opera at the center of this year's Workshop that was presented, along with ROMEO AND JULIET, in concert on the following three nights.
During the recital, thirteen sopranos, mezzo sopranos, baritones, and tenors, students of the Workshop, presented twenty short works, primarily art songs, of Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, and Alyabiev to a crowded house at the Helen Corning Warden Theater, accompanied by pianist Laura Ward. After their time with the Workshop, the young artists in this year's program were able to present these works, with proper Russian diction and an understanding of the lyrics, to an audience successfully. (However, for ease of audience understanding, all musical titles were presented in English, even those whose titles might be better recognized by some in the original Russian.)
Although these performers are young artists and they are still developing musically, several of them were outstanding in their recital pieces. Soprano Sangying Li, a native of Hunan, China currently studying at Temple University, sang Glinka's "To Her" and Alyabiev's "The Nightingale." Especially in the latter, Li demonstrated a magnificent voice and a controlled vibrato along with a clear understanding of what she was singing. Li is one of the most vocally developed women in this year's program, and it will be a great surprise if she fails to have a notable vocal career.