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Gaudeamus igitur

New York
Alice Tully Hall
05/06/2004 -  
Songs of Richard Strauss, John Musto and Ralph Vaughn Williams
Juilliard Vocal Arts Honors Students

It’s graduation time again, that season when the big New York concert halls make their real money renting themselves out as welcoming venues for ceremonial events. Not surprisingly, there is always a flurry of academic valedictories during this period and my companion and I try and attend a representative sampling each year. Last evening at Alice Tully was the Vocal Arts Honors Recital of the Juilliard School, a good opportunity to hear some of the up and comers. Over the years, I have been fortunate to hear some very fine fledgling voices at events like this one. Two that come to mind are those of Stephanie Woodling, late of the Manhattan School, who went on to a major role at Opera Pacific that I was able to attend and other parts in Santa Fe, and Amanda Mace, whom I praised in a notice in these pages a few years ago for her recital at Merkin, and who just recently has been selected to sing one of the Rhinemaidens in the new Lars von Trier Ring at Bayreuth in 2006. At this current recital, there were definitely flashes and glimmers of neonatal stars.

Three odd phenomena:

1. There were no tenors, mezzos or basses deemed presentable
2. Three of the five finalists chose lieder of Richard Strauss (what are the odds?)
3. The three baritones were all impressive, each in a very distinct manner, while the two sopranos were decidedly not.

Anton Belov seemed the hardest worker in the bunch, possessor of fine German diction and remarkably well-shaped tones. His Strauss was stirringly emotive, especially his Ruhe, meine Seele, an early piece so strong in its impact that it is sometimes inserted within the Four Last Songs. Scott Dispensa was a fluid man of the musical theater, a Billy Bigelow type with a secure upper range bordering on the tenor. This reviewer was especially moved by John Musto’s setting of Recuerdo by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mr. Dispensa’s excellent vocal thespianism during same.

Sometimes at Juilliard, a student is already advanced beyond his years and this was the case of Brian Mulligan. Already under contract at both the MET and City Operas, Mr. Mulligan was by far the hit of the Ives festival this past winter. His powerful evocations in the excerpts from Vaughn Williams’ House of Life series last night were of the highest professional quality, the zaftig crescendi and attention to vocal detail outstanding. Pity that so few New Yorkers were on hand to hear this superb performance. Oh well, I guess they will just have to wait and pay the big money to hear him once he becomes a force with which to be reckoned on the bigger stages of the world.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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