BWW Reviews: VOICES FOR RELIEF Typhoon Haiyan Fundraiser From Academy of Vocal Arts Alumni and Residents

VOICES FOR RELIEF, a pair of benefit concerts for Philippine typhoon relief, is the brainchild of noted young tenor Jeffrey Halili, who's recently concluded in FALSTAFF with the Virginia Opera (he notes he's now sung all four tenor roles). A graduate of the Academy of Vocal Arts, he contacted AVA in order to put on the benefit. Scheduled, with different casts, on November 30 and on December 14, all the performers are either AVA alumni or current resident artists. The December concert, like the November one, will be held at First Presbyterian Church, a venue notable not only for its charity but for acoustics that make it a fine location for concerts.

The November 30 concert starred Halili, with the assistance of sopranos Cristina Nassif, Marina Costa-Jackson, Michelle Johnson, and Jessica Julin; mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa; tenors John Viscardi, Cody Austin, Dominick Chenes, James Valenti, and Jack LiVigni; baritones Luis Lesdema and Jason Switzer; bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana; and bass Jeremy Milner. Performers Cynthia Cook and Jesus Garcia were scheduled but were unable to participate. Philadelphians have seen many of the performers on stage lately, particularly Mezzacappa and Ngqungwana, who sang with Opera Philadelphia in the season-opening production of Verdi's NABUCCO.

Highlights of the November 30 concert included Ngqungwana's warmly received "Madamina, il catalogo e questo" from DON GIOVANNI, as well as "Morro, ma prima in grazie" from UN BALLO IN MASCHERA sung by Marina Costa-Jackson. A semi-staged "Addio, dolce svegliare" from LA BOHEME sung by sopranos Nassif and Johnson, and by Valenti and Ledesma, was received enthusiastically, as was "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" from DON CARLOS, again by Valenti and Ledesma. In the second half, "Come un bel di di maggio" from ANDREA CHENIER, performed by Chenes, was also warmly received, as was LiVigni's peformance of the traditional "Core'ngrato" ("Catari, Catari"). Additionally, Julin's performance of "Sola, perduta, abbandonata" from MANON LESCAUT was soul-piercing and slightly reminiscent of Callas' concert performance of it.

More On: Michelle Johnson, Margaret Mezzacappa, John Viscardi, Cynthia, Typhoon,

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Marakay Rogers America's most uncoordinated childhood ballet and tap student before discovering that her talents were music and writing, Marakay Rogers finally traded in her violin for law school when she realized that she might make more money in law than she did performing with the Potomac Symphony and in orchestra pits around the mid-Atlantic.

A graduate of Wilson College (PA) with additional studies in drama and literature from Open University (UK), Marakay is also a writer, film reviewer and interviewer for the Wilkes-Barre (PA) Independent Gazette, science-fiction publications, and other news outlets, and is listed in Marquis' "Who's Who in America". As of 2014, she serves as Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board of the Beaux Arts Society, Inc. of New York. Marakay is senior theatre critic for Central Pennsylvania and a senior editor for BWWBooksWorld as well as a classical music reviewer. In her free time, Marakay practices law and often gets it right.

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