In August, The New Generation Festival will be returning to the gardens of Florence’s Palazzo Corsini following a successful first year. Highlights of this year’s festival will be its staging of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” performed with live orchestration for the first time. Bringing audiences a taste of what the summer will have in store, The New Generation Festival took to New York City for a gala concert featuring Anush Hovhannisyan, Vazgen Garzaryan, and Jazz vocalist Brianna Thomas.
Delivering the opening statements of the concert was Princess Giorgiana Corsini, who hosts the festival in her family’s palace.
“They gave us a most wonderful “L’Elisir D’Amore,” Corsini says of last year’s The New Generation Festival. “One evening it rained; it shouldn’t have, but it was a big success because we moved it and with a minimum of light, minimum of orchestra, we were able to complete “L’Elisir D’Amore” and it was so amusing that we all danced with it. So it was opera: serious, high-quality, and amusing. All the young people were enjoying it in a way that music should be done. This year is going to be even more, so I’m sure I’ll have a little backstage work to do, but I’m very pleased because the singers, the artists, the directors, the producers, are all below thirty years of age, and that’s very encouraging for the audience as well. Young people come to see young people performing and I think that’s a great success of The New Generation Festival. Thank you.”
Brianna Thomas started the night off with a selection of Gospel songs which showed off her voice’s strength and sheer flexibility. Not long into her first song “Walking over God’s Heaven,” was the audience clapping along as Thomas exchanged phrases with pianist James Hurt. Her next song, “Motherless Child,” showcased her ability to fill the room. This led to some overpowering moments due to the microphone she kept at arm’s length which, due to the modest size of the venue, was hardly necessary. Even so, Thomas ended the number on a softer note before going into her last song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” As Hurt hammered away at thundering, tumultuous chords, Thomas’ line rang through like a prayer in a storm.
Following this, soprano Anush Hovhannisyan delighted the audience with her silky legato, strolling through the seats with playful ease in her first number, “Quando m’en vo’ soletta” from Puccini’s “La Boheme.” Hovhannisyan channeled Musetta’s direct flirtatiousness, indulging in melismatic runs, one of which ended by a purring diminuendo. Far from ending things softly, Anush took off and displayed her ability to soar at the height of her register with great support.
Bass Vazgen Gazaryan demonstrated a rich an earthy timbre that was not wanting for speed as his first number alternated between tempos. His next song was King Phillip’s aria from “Don Carlo,” which saw Gazaryan wrapped up in the drama of the character, displaying tenderness that was capable of erupting when needed, and earning no shortage of “bravos!” by the time he was finished.
All of this ultimately made for a passionate, if brief, evening of performances. With the promising young talent of The New Generation Festival at the helm in Florence this August, the summer is looking even brighter.