Foundation celebrates famed opera singer’s 100th birthday

October 22, 2012 By Nino Pantano For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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`Summertime,’ by Brooklyn’s Gershwin, was a highlight

Sunday afternoon, Sept. 14, marked the 38th annual gala concert of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and also celebrated legendary soprano Licia Albanese’s 100th birthday.

The president of the foundation, Sachi Liebergesell, and Rev. John Kamas, its secretary, greeted the enthusiastic audience at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Frederick P. Rose Hall. When Mme. Albanese walked out on stage assisted by Metropolitan Opera Guild’s Jane Poole and the Rev. John Kamas, there was a standing ovation. Mme. Albanese blew kisses to one and all and then joined in the singing of the Star Spangled Banner with the audience and the Musica Sacra Orchestra under the superb direction of Kent Tritle. As always, she sang the high note at the finale. Then everyone sang Happy Birthday.

Our hosts for this afternoon were Robert Sherman and Midge Woolsey, the much-cherished and charming announcers from radio station WQXR in their first appearance as a team.

Grant winner Anthony C. Evans sang “Si Puo…?” the prologue to “I Pagliacci,” accompanied by the orchestra. His lush baritone at once soft and intimate, tinged with emotion and coupled with fine acting made an indelible impression. His two B flats at the finale came out as bursts of gold.

Norman Garrett sang “O Carlo Ascolta” from Verdi’s “Don Carlo” in a dark velvety baritone that had power, depth and a special charismatic quality.

Tobias L. Greenhalgh sang “Bella Siccome un Angelo” from Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” in a lyric baritone   that included tonal beauty, flair and some very fine trills.

“O Soave Fanciulla” from Puccini’s “La Boheme” was stirringly sung by soprano Ashley Harrington and tenor Zach Borichevsky. Ms. Harrington possesses a radiant sound, and Borichevsky has a voice of power and sweetness. Their final ecstatic “Amor! Amor!” was thrilling, with both voices hitting the final high C offstage with ease.

Another duet from La Boheme followed with “In Un Coupe” with Eric Margiore’s sparkling vibrant tenor as the lovesick Rodolfo and Steven LaBrie as the equally frustrated Marcello with his rich round baritone.

“Summertime” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” was sung in a haunting soprano by Kearstin Piper Brown with some lovely floated tones. Even though it was a warm summery day, we preferred her captivating “Summertime” to the real thing outdoors. It makes one realize anew the genius of Brooklyn-born George Gershwin (1898-1937), who left us too soon.

Jonathan Winell lent his impressive sweet tenor to “Avete Torto” from “Gianni Schicchi,” and 11-year-old Marleigh Paige sang a charming “O Mio Babbino Caro” from the same opera

The “Pearl Fishers” duet, “Au Fond du Temple Saint,” was given a generous reading by tenor Noah Baetge and baritone Takaoki Onishi. Mr. Baetge’s stratospheric highs and Mr. Onishi’s burnished lows were a powerful blend in this popular duet.

The Foundation gave prestigious medal awards to Metropolitan Opera tenor Michael Fabiano, who sang “Federico’s Lament” from Cilea’s “L’Arlesiana” with inspired passion. Recipient Met mezzo Isabel Leonard sang a magical “I Loved You Once in Silence” from “Camelot.”

The final recipient was soprano Latonia Moore, who sang “Un Bel Di” from “Madama Butterfly” with extraordinary pathos and power. Special guest, new Met Opera tenor Ricardo Tamura, shook the rafters with a heartbreaking “Vesti la Giubba” from Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.”

Brian O’Connor, Esq., vice president and general counsel, made the closing remarks. Happy 100th Birthday to the great soprano and “founder of the feast,” Mme. Licia Albanese. She was the “toast of the town” at the dinner at the New York Athletic Club afterwards.

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