George London Foundation to Welcome Jennifer Johnson Cano & Dimitri Pittas, 5/15
To conclude the 20th season of its recital series, the George London Foundation for Singers presents a performance by two acclaimed young artists: mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, who won a George London Award in 2014, and tenor Dimitri Pittas, a 2004 George London Award winner, on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at 4:00 pm, at The Morgan Library & Museum. Accompanying them at the piano will be each singer's respective spouse: Christopher Cano and Leah Edwards.
The George London Foundation Recital Series presents pairs of outstanding opera singers, many of whom were winners of a George London Award (the prize of the foundation's annual vocal competition) early in their careers or are recent recipients of the honor.
The two singers were featured together in the season-opening production of Verdi's Otello at the Metropolitan Opera, and won critical praise: Anthony Tommasini said in The New York Times, "the tenor Dimitri Pittas was an ardent, vulnerable Cassio, and the mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano a rich-voiced, sympathetic Emilia, Desdemona's maidservant," and Anne Midgette said in The Washington Post, "Jennifer Johnson Cano was a clarion Emilia ... Dimitri Pittas's Cassio was certainly more sharply delineated than some I've seen, not least because he sang it well."
Jennifer Johnson Cano will sing five songs by Hugo Wolf, Jonathan Dove's Three Tennyson Songs, and Beatrice's Aria from Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz, accompanied by her husband, Christopher Cano. Dimitri Pittas will perform Bellini's La ricordanza; three songs, "Die Mainacht," "Dein Blaues Auge," and "Meine Liebe ist Grün" by Brahms; and Chausson's song cycle Poème de l'amour et de la mer, accompanied by his wife, Leah Edwards. The two singers will conclude the program with "Tonight" from Bernstein's West Side Story.
Of performances of Handel's Messiah with The Cleveland Orchestra in December, Zachary Lewis said in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "Jennifer Johnson Cano was truly stellar. She, in fact, was the complete package, a voice agile and forceful, spacious and laden with emotion. Whether proclaiming 'good tidings to Zion' or distilling the anguish of Christ's rejection, she was a poignant medium." And when Dimitri Pittas in June 2015 made his company debut with the San Francisco Opera in the world premiere production of Tutino's Two Women, Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle praised his "lucid, shapely performance" in the role of Michele.
The Legacy of George London
The goal of the London Foundation, the support and nurturing of young singers, was an abiding interest of the great American bass-baritone George London, who devoted a great part of the time and energy of his later years to this purpose. "Remembering his difficult road to success, George wanted to devise a way to make the road a little easier for future generations of singers," said George London Foundation President Nora London. Initially created under the auspices of the National Opera Institute, the George London Awards program has been administered since 1990 directly by the Foundation as a living legacy to George London's own exceptional talent and generosity. As The New York Times noted earlier this year, "this prestigious competition, which, now in its 45th year, can rightfully claim to act as a springboard for major careers in opera."
Jennifer Johnson Cano (2014 George London Award), mezzo-soprano, of St. Louis, Missouri, began her 2015-16 season singing the role of Emilia in The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Otello, directed by Bartlett Sher and under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She also bowed as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Arizona Opera and sings the role of Orphée in Orphée et Euridice with Des Moines Opera later this spring. Orchestral engagements include Verdi's Requiem with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Messiah with Cleveland Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony, Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Minnesota Orchestra and Kansas City Symphony, and Enrique Granados's symphonic tone poem Dante, and Brahms's Alto Rhapsody with Monterey Symphony.
Over the last two seasons she has bowed at the Metropolitan Opera as Mercedes, Emilia, Wellgunde, and Waltraute, and debuted as Meg Page in Falstaff and Bersi in Andrea Chenier. Other operatic debuts have included The Sharp Eared Fox in Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen with The Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst and Diana in La Calisto with Cincinnati Opera. Her 2014-15 season included Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Boston Lyric Opera, Beethoven Symphony No. 9 with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, and a return to the Baltimore Symphony with Marin Alsop for Leonard Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony (which was recorded live for Naxos); writing about this last, the Baltimore Sun praised " the riveting contributions of soloist Jennifer Johnson Cano. Her deep, velvety mezzo and impassioned phrasing gave Jeremiah's warnings such startling immediacy that I wouldn't have been surprised to see people in the hall ducking under their seats." www.jenniferjohnsoncano.net
Dimitri Pittas (2004 George London Award), tenor, a native of New York City, sang the role of Cassio in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Otello, which opened its 2015-16 season. He also performs the role of Alfred in Die Fledermaus at the Met, and in Japan at the Saito Kinen Festival. On the concert stage, he sings Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. In 2014-15 he sang Rodolfo in La bohème with Opera de Paris and Opera National de Bordeaux, and the title role of Don Carlo in a new production for Opera Philadelphia, directed by Tim Albery. Dimitri also sang the tenor solo in Verdi's Requiem with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin.
Recently Dimitri debuted with the Bolshoi Opera of Moscow in the title role of Don Carlo, and as Oronte in I Lombardi with the Hamburg State Opera. He also appeared as Rodolfo in La bohème and Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera with the Canadian Opera Company and Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore with Deutsche Oper Berlin. In New York, he sang in the Metropolitan Opera's 2012 production of Macbeth, about which the New York Times said, "As Macduff, Dimitri Pittas offered one of the most moving moments in [the] evening ... with a heartfelt, expressively rendered version of 'Ah, la paterna mano.'" www.dimitripittas.com
Photos by Lisa Mazzucco, Kristin Hoebermann