Soprano Suzanne Vinnik Leads Major Opera Singers To ‘Sing For Hope’ At Port Authority

By David Salazar

It was a typical Monday at Port Authority. People hustling and bustling about trying to make their respective connections. Long lines outside bus terminals. General white noise echoing around the building.

But around 5 p.m. something in the atmosphere changed. If you were walking around the terminal at that time, you might have started to hear “O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s “La Bohème” ringing out over loudspeakers. Some might have thought of the music as a radio transmission, while those that sought out the soprano-tenor duet would be pleased and surprised to find a group of young opera singers taking centerstage over the course of the next hour or so.

The concert, in honor of Sing For Hope, a non-profit organization that aims to improve lives through the power of music, opened with soprano Suzanne Vinnik paired up with tenor Diego Silva for the famed Puccini duet. Vinnik, who organized the concert, is the founder of Shoperatic and has carved out an international career as a soprano. Silva is currently working at the Metropolitan Opera and is set to travel to Monaco to take on the role of Arturo in “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

They were followed by a bevy of artists performing all around the world. Baritone Reginald Smith Jr., who is currently performing in Porgy and Bess at the Met Opera, brought a fiery interpretation of “Eri tu” from “Un Ballo in Maschera” before eventually taking on the final duet of “Il Trovatore” with Vinnik, inspiring one audience member to dancing along to Verdi’s vibrant score and even throwing verbal appreciation toward the performers.

Baritone Kyle Oliver took “A votre toast” from “Carmen” and closed out the concert with Silva in the famed duet from “Les Pêcheurs de Perles.” Mezzo-soprano Janara Kellerman, a revelation in New Amsterdam Opera’s recent “Hérodiade” performed the rapturous “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from “Samson et Dalila,” while Jessica Fishenfeld, who is set to perform with the Helena Symphony Orchestra later this month, took on Norina’s cavatina from “Don Pasquale.” Cherisse and Cherissia Williams, also known as “The Soprano Twins,” performed the iconic duet from “Lakmé.”

Mezzo-soprano Alyssa Martin turned on the coloratura fireworks for “Nacqui all’affanno” from “La Cenerentola,” an opera that she will perform at the Virginia Opera, while mezzo-soprano Eugenia Forteza, founder of 360 of Opera, brought Spanish fire with “Lagrimas mias” from “El Anillo de Hierro;” Forteza is set to star in the world premiere of Felix Jarrar’s “Mother Goose” at Dixon Place.

Bass-baritone Christopher Job, who is working on a half-dozen productions at the Met Opera during the 2019-20 season, performed “La ci darem la mano” alongside Vinnik, while Marina Harris, who is set to star as “Tosca” at the Southern Illinois Festival, brought Wagnerian bravura with “Du bist der Lenz” from “Die Walküre.”

Pianist Laetitia Ruccolo accompanied all the singers in the myriad of repertory.

“As singers, sometimes we forget the WHY we dedicate our lives to music,” Vinnik told OperaWire. “Having a career in opera can be emotionally draining as we are always seeking approval from those casting us and paying money to watch us onstage. These concerts, are a way to reconnect with the pure joy of singing. There’s something about the ability to share our immense talent in a no-pressure situation that truly allows us to find our way home to the WHY we are artists.
“The world needs our talent. It is evident when people stop and take in our gifts. Whenever I sing and listen to my peers during these concerts, I feel like my heart is going to explode as cheesy as that sounds. I’m so grateful to be part of the Sing For Hope family and treasure these experiences.”