Cameron Kelsall: The last live opera performance I saw BC (before Coronavirus) was La Favorite at the Academy of Vocal Arts, which I’ve long said is one of the great gifts to music lovers living in Philadelphia. Having proximity to a world-class training ground allows local audiences to discover young singers at the very beginning of their development and follow them as they forge their professional careers. (In the last two decades, AVA alums have included the likes of Joyce DiDonato, Michael Fabiano, Angela Meade, Ailyn Perez, Bryan Hymel and Joyce El-Khoury, to name just a few.) Two recent graduates—mezzo Hannah Ludwig and soprano Alexandra Nowakowski—have unfortunately seen their upward trajectories momentarily stifled by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent pause on live performances that followed. For that reason alone, it was moving to watch them make music together, along with accompanist Jose Melendez, in a live-streamed recital poignantly titled “Music, Give Us Hope”. The hour-long event was full of personality, plus a few technical glitches—it was streamed through an iPhone in landscape mode—but it did indeed give me hope that I’d be hearing even more from these voices in the future.
David Fox: Cameron, you touched on the sense of personality, which throughout the New World of Zoom performances from people’s homes has been for me the biggest point of interest. Ideally, there can be something truly genuine and sweet about it, and this recital—which, I should say from the start, I also found highly rewarding musically—had that sincerity factor in a big way. It was hard for me not to get choked up, watching two of AVA’s most promising young graduates—who were well on their way to significant careers here and abroad—having to make this opportunity for themselves, and doing it with such palpable good humor. It was also wonderful to see again, even at a distance, AVA’s beautiful Helen Corning Warden theater, where you and I (often together) have seen so many operas and concerts. It’s only a few blocks from my apartment, but of course in today’s terms, that doesn’t mean accessible. Yet “accessible” is exactly the word I’d use to describe the concert itself, which for me was a touching blend of optimism and reality; with two singers who in one sense are already sophisticated professionals, and in another, young people struggling with forging a career in an uncertain time…
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Categories: Criticism, Music, PARTERRE BOX, Philadelphia
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