Writing up the Met Council is a rather different assignment, I think, than opera reviewing. Assignment, he says, as if he were Roz Russell and Cary Grant had just said, "Hildy, that Metropolitan Opera has story written all over it!" Anyway I certainly don't go in with my poison pen in hand; everyone that's made it to this stage is an accomplished singer in one way or another, though some will be more succesful than others, and that's the way things go. I find it poignant that this may be what some remember as their moment in the spotlight, and I don't find myself in the world's most critical mood. I will say that this year's slate of singers were more about potential for me than present excitement, compared with last year's singers some of whom seemed a bit more...finished. It occurs to me I wrote about them folks under an entirely different operanym and maybe will try and wrest that text from Nikk over at Trill and print it here.
The concert is really about showing up with friends, comparing notes on who you think should win, affecting some air of shock if they don't, and enjoying the casual air of the event. I guess if I went and thought someone was truly awful, I'd just not mention their particular performance*, and nobody was awful or even bad, so can I please stop hedging now and write about the damned thing?
1. Nikki Einfeld of Canada
Selection I preferred and what I thought about it: The Willow Song from Baby Doe. Warm and distinctive tone, natural stage presence without movements born of nervous agitation.
What I'd like to hear her in: probably Mozart. Maybe more 20th century music.
What I think would add to the Nikki Einfeld Experience: a little clearer diction in English would solidify my impression of a singer very interested in the character behind the notes.
2. Paul Corona of Illinois
Preferred selection: La Calunnia. Nice heft in the middle, youthful comic energy. If he sounds this good at 22, the best is yet to come.
What I'd like to hear him in: More Rossini for now, and there's time to grow into things like Verdi.
What would add to the Paul Corona Experience: Time, and beefing up the lower part of the voice.
3. Holli Harrison of Tennesee
Preferred selection: L'atra notte from Mefistofele. I shall unabashedly call the top "thrilling" because the word popped into my head while she was singing. Sounds like she could be convinced to cut loose and give us some demented.
What I'd like to hear her in: Verismo.
What would add to the Holli Harrison Experience: I'd like to know if there's more dynamic variation available, especially on the high notes.
4. Seth Keeton of Georgia
Preferred selection: hard to choose, because Claggart's aria fit the voice better but it was just such a treat that he chose "Wie schoen ist doch die Musik" from Schweigsame Frau for one of his offerings. "Thoughtful" is a word that came to mind for his delivery, and I hope I don't need to say that's a big deal.
What I'd like to hear him in: lieder, Britten in a jewelbox house like Glimmerglass.
What would add to the Seth Keeton Experience: A hall better matched to the size of the voice.
5. Donovan Singletary of Florida
Preferred selection: Sorge infausta una procella from Orlando. Impeccable articulation without the tinny early music voice that frequently accompanies it. Incidentally, rather striking headshot, I can't help but say.
What I'd like to hear him in: more Handel, please. Bellini?
What would add to the Donovan Singletary Experience: A more introverted approach to things like Figaro that can go a little over the top if you're not careful.
6. Katherine Jolly of California
Preferred selection: Durch Zaertlichkeit from Abduction/Seraglio. No fear or hesitation in the highest range, which is solid and precise in intonation.
What I'd like to hear her in: I'm thinking we might have a very funny and accurate Cunegonde here.
What would add to the Katherine Jolly Experience: a bit more trust in the voice to convey charm without quite so much frenetic physicality.
7. John Michael Moore of Iowa
Preferred selection: Ein Madchen oder Weibchen, which is a shock since normally it makes me want to run screaming from the theater. The little bit of staging at the very end was actually hilarious. If you were there, you'll know what I'm talking about, but it doesn't retell well. Sonically, a well schooled voice in the mold of Nathan Gunn.
What I'd like to hear him in: Less annoying Mozart. I'm betting Guiglielmo would be a dream, funny and vocally suave.
What would add to the John Michael Moore experience: A bit more punch to the voice; don't know if this was a matter of nerves or the basic quality of it.
8. Marjorie Owens of Virginia
Preferred selection: D'oreste, D'ajace from Idomeneo. Sung with guts at no cost to the Mozart line.
What I'd like to hear her in: Donna Anna for sure, possibly Strauss as the voice has some real muscle.
What would add to the Marjorie Owens experience: A bit of abandon, the courage to hurl the more declamatory lines in the Consul aria out a little less prettily.
Hopefully these don't seem cursory. I was a bit of a wreck when I got in.
Simon O'Neill and Margaret Jane Wray did the halftime show. She's got an enviable instrument but I sometimes think what the hell can you do with Dich Teure Halle. And (we all have bad days) she fumbled on the climactic note. He sounded excellent in "In Fernem Land." JSU, who seems to be back from hiatus, speculates that he's covering Lohengrin, and as I am never able to get very revved about Heppner though I kind of recognize objectively he's a high quality tenor, I have to say I wouldn't mind if Hep had a cold one night.
*unfortunately I was riding my bronco back from the Wild West Ring that wasn't and missed Jonathan Beyer, so I can't write about him, but I heard he was one of the best of the bunch, actually. I couldn't really have judged well anyway, since I tend to find Papageno's suicide aria puts ideas in my head.