Talents of the World International Music 2018 Festival Review: Three Tenors From Around the World

High Emotions and High Cs Abound at Festival’s Second Night

By Logan Martell

Dec. 22, 2018, saw the second concert of Talents of the World’s International Music Festival. Following their tribute concert to the legendary Maria Callas, Saturday’s performance was given in celebration of legendary tenor Enrico Caruso’s 145th anniversary. The evening’s program was comprised of not only operatic favorites, but a number of Neapolitan Songs as well. What followed was a highly-charged performance from the company’s roster of tenors, putting their skills on full display.

Beginning this tribute concert to Caruso was non other than Lucio Dalla’s song “Caruso,” sung by Raul Melo, John Irvin, and WooYoung Yoon. Singing through the opening verse and chorus was Raul Melo, whose classical timbre made for a highly-pleasing start, especially with the shift in power that came with the first instance of the phrase “te voglio bene assaje.” The second verse and chorus was sung by WooYoung Yoon, who brought a youthful ardor; and the third by John Irvin, who demonstrated surprising power for his lithe build. The accompaniment, played by Victoria Ulanovskaya, bore not only lush chord voicings, but impeccable phrasing. Finally, all three tenors joined in for a tight but tremendous unison closing.

Next on the program was “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” from Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore,” sung by Melo with accompaniment from Alexandra Naumenko. Melo’s interpretation wore his heart on his sleeve for most of its delivery, while seeming to gain more composure with the second stanza, Nemorino’s emotions came through like a languid roller-coaster of hopeful heights and despairing plunges. In closing the aria, Melo’s final sustained word “morir,” was tenderly held until he threw it away with a sobering, almost-harsh exhalation that conveyed a remaining inner fire. This fire returned not long after, when Melo sang “Vesti la Giubba,” from Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.” An early example of this was heard in the deprecating laugh Melo gave after the question “Are you not a man?” as well as his contemptuous undertones in the phrase “You are a clown.”

Following this was the aria “Salut! Demeure Chaste et Pure,” from Gounod’s “Faust.” This number was sung by Tianchi Zhang, who won the Special Prize of Talents of the World’s International Voice Competition. While Zhang revealed a light voice, he proved it to be one with a strong presence as well; his tender, brotherly affections were highlighted by the flurry of tonality from Naumenko’s accompaniment. While his expressions were at times hard to read, Zhang showed a charming ability to sigh phrases to a close; after a strong high C, he diminuendoed to a delicate ending.

The next aria, sung by WooYoung Yoon, was “Ah, Mes Amis, Quel Jour de Fete,” from Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment.” His rendition was highly-spirited, though there were slight instances where he pronounced the end of the word “marcher,” with a long ‘E’, or phonetically: (i). The opening measures, alternating rapidity with a relishing, lyrical quality, were deftly handled, but most striking were Yoon’s high Cs. The staccato delivery of each C emphasized Yoon’s powerful spinto voice; after bracing himself for the climactic note, Yoon gave a massive ending to the aria and was met with great applause. This spinto quality was seen shortly after with the famous, “La Donna e Mobile,” from Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” which was sung by Yoon, Zhang, and Omar Najmi. Their humorous exchanges resembled a group of friends consoling themselves on their respective romantic struggles. The final high B natural saw the tenors piling in after the other, each being able to vocally leap into unison like an aural high-five.

The next trio came in the form of “Nessun Dorma,” from Puccini’s “Turandot,” and sung by Yoon, Irvin, and Melo. By now there was a notable pattern of using Yoon to open up group numbers, which is no bad thing. Irivin’s delivery of the line “sulla tua boca,” held a commanding power, as if Calaf securing the victory on his romantic game of riddles with Turandot. The accompaniment, played by Ulanovskaya, carried a troubled undercurrent which fleshed out more of the dramatic arc, and which the tenors would use to highlight the triumphant certainty of its climax.

Though he sang a duet in the previous night’s concert with Tamar Iveri, tenor Arsen Soghomonyan was unable to perform due to illness. While the company’s tenors took turns filling in for numbers he would have sung that night, one aria, “E Lucevan le Stelle,” from Puccini’s “Tosca,” was not heard. In its place came an enchanting piano medley from Ulanovskaya, titled “With the Song in My Heart.” Among the songs were excerpts of “Caruso,” bearing a more uplifting emotion; a series of arpeggios in the upper register were followed by an elegant glissando which led into “That’s Amore.” With such a familiar song, the piano seemed to sing from Ulanovskaya’s playing due to her expert phrasing and blending of tones.

After this, the program shifted from arias to Neapolitan Songs, some more famous than others, but all were sung with passion fit for any opera house. One of these songs “Parla Mi d’Amore,” was meant to be sung by Soghomonyan, but was covered by baritone David Gvinianidze, who is also Talents of the World’s President and founder. He displayed a firm strength through his brief time onstage, with open, inviting gestures, and a surprising tenderness which let him rise to the higher reaches of his voice while retaining a delicate touch.

The final number of the evening saw all five tenors returning for the catchy closer “Funiculi, Funicula,” by Luigi Denza. Melo began the opening verse, with the remaining soloists echoing his lines as a close-knit chorus. Passing the baton off to Yoon, the tenors continued in this way for most of the song, with Yoon being followed by Irvin, then Zhang; their lightheartedness above the driving accompaniment made for a fun number which saw the audience clapping along. This jovial finale was ended with a powerful unison from the tenors, which could be said to represent the close bond held between the artists. The concert saw great teamwork due to its number-heavy program, with songs arranged as either solos, trios, or the final quintet. The tenors of Talents of the World handled the musical challenges with a panache fitting for the voice type, one that emphasized power as well as sensitivity. With their tribute to Enrico Caruso at an end, Talents of the World’s International Music Festival will conclude the following night with the company’s Christmas Ball, celebrating the holidays with operatic flair.


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