“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”
So said former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson once upon a time. The theme is at the forefront of the arts. Everyone knows that opera, among other art forms, and its future relies on it being passed from one generation to the next. But that isn’t the only important aspect of the transference, but also how the arts themselves can develop and further the education of the younger generation.
So it was that this dialogue hung in the air on the night of Dec. 12, 2017, in Tribeca at an event held by Time In Kids. The event, entitled “Puccini with Passion” was hosted by Dana Tang, Andy Darrell, and Lily and Wilson Ervin, and was a benefit concert for the Time In Kids Arts Initiative, an organization that aims to “ transform the lives and learning of chronically disadvantaged public school children, ensuring that equality, opportunity and access – to the arts and through the arts – become staples of public education. Not only did the event feature the artwork created by some of the children within its ranks, but also a special musical performance by superstar soprano Ailyn Pérez, internationally-renowned tenor Brian Jagde, and pianist and Metropolitan Opera Assistant Conductor Bryan Wagorn.
Also in attendance were a wide range of prominent arts patrons as well as leaders of major foundations, such as the Richard Tucker Foundations’ Barry Tucker and Hildegard Behrens Foundation Founder and Chairman Gastón Ormazábal, among others.
The two singers have been very much involved with the organization with the soprano starting her collaboration in Spring 2016. She has been a massive proponent of the organization, working with them personally and inviting other colleagues to help out. She is on the Advisory Board and has been very active in involving other singers, advocating for the program with funders.
One such colleague was Jagde, whose first involvement with Time In Kids came on Dec. 13, 2016 (that’s one year ago as of the publication of this article). During that session, which you can read all about here, he taught and performed from “West Side Story.”
Prior to the performance, guests churned in slowly but surely, eventually filling space. A piano stood in one corner of a living room space by a number of windows from which one could see a gorgeous skyline of New York City’s iconic skyscrapers in their nocturnal splendor. Around the piano were a number of chairs set up for an intimate concert and around 8 p.m. everyone was asked to take a seat in anticipation.
London and Kristopher, students that have been a part of the Time In Kids program, served as Emcees for the evening, introducing special speakers as they came forward one at a time. Time In Kids found Cyndie Berthezene spoke about the importance of the program and how it has not only introduced the arts to children from troubled backgrounds but how the arts themselves have aided the children in overcoming those challenges.
Then it came time for some music. Music of Puccini to be precise. Those who know Puccini’s operas might find it rather strange that the musicians would choose the Italian composer, known mainly for his high-octane tragedies, with only one comedy to his name. And Jagde noted that he had to sift through the repertoire rather carefully for his selections.
“I usually have to search really hard for arias that are not incredibly dramatic or painstaking. At this party, I actually found the three arias that I could sing where I’m actually happy,” he said to laughter.
Pérez and Jagde sang three arias apiece while Wagorn split up the program with his own interlude, the intermezzo from “Manon Lescaut.”
Pérez kicked things off with “Signore, ascolta!” from “Turandot” before Jagde came on with “Recondita armonia” from “Tosca.” Pérez then earned a massive standing ovation for her interpretation of “Un bel dì vedremo” from “Madama Butterfly.” After the Intermezzo, Jagde then took on “Donna non vidi mai” from “Manon Lescaut,”
“Everything you sing, I just want to be the leading lady with you,” noted Pérez warmly after Jagde’s “Donna non vidi mai.
Then Pérez took some time to congratulate the two Emcees, noting their poise and confidence in front of the entire room full of guests. She then prepared to sing “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” from “La Rondine.”
“This piece tells us that one of the most important things is love,” Pérez noted before singing the aria from “La Rondine before slyly adding in, “Money’s important too,” to the amusement of the listening arts patrons.
Jagde capped off the arias with an incredible “Nessun dorma.” After raucous applause, the two singers took on “O soave fanciulla.”
The performance was quite a spectacle and it is quite surprising that the low-ceiling apartment didn’t fall apart with the booming sounds of the two singers.
“Thank you so much for coming out. It means so much to us and to Time In and the kids,” stated Jagde in one of his closing remarks.