A GROUP OF YOUNG WAGNERIANS
The Wagner Society of Cincinnati sponsors concerts and lectures. It also ties in to the events of other arts organizations, such as the scaled down presentations of acts from Wagner operas recently presented by the Queen City Chamber Opera.
Yet another pursuit of the WSC is nurturing of the careers of young singers whose voices demonstrate Wagnerian potential.
A recent concert given by the Society at the Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Wyoming featured six early-career artists singing excerpts from Wagner operas along with arias from Show Boat, Werther, La Forza del Destino, Aida, and The Magic Flute.
Two sopranos, Shareese Johnson Arnold and Sarai Elizabeth Cole were joined by mezzo-soprano Andria L. Helm and bass-baritone Rocky Eugenio Sellers in an extended excerpt from the opening scene of Das Rheingold.
The accompanist and music director for the concert was Jesse Leong, who led the trio of Rhine Maidens in the fateful encounter with Alberich that sets in motion the four-opera Ring of the Nibelungs cycle. Jonathan McPhee is the author of The Essential Ring, from which the arrangement for piano that was used originates.
From the beginning of the concert it was clear that all of the voices that would be heard that afternoon were capable of meeting the demands that Wagnerian singing makes on the human voice.
Sarai Elizabeth Cole’s singing of Einsam in truben Tagen from Lohengrin showed impressive vocalism and emotional commitment.
Shareese Arnold, a true lyric spinto voice excelled in her singing of O patria mia from Verdi’s Aida, proving her mettle from the opening recitative to the final ascent to the high C that climaxes the aria.
Andria L. Helm was sensitive, vocally supple and stylistically on point in the Air des Lettres from Massenet’s Werther.
Chelsea Duval-Major, a former mezzo-soprano spoke with candor and humor about the difficulties of her current change of vocal category. After admitting that this was the first time she was to sing in public as a soprano she sang impressively and unapologetically Leonora’s Pace, pace from La forza del destino.
The Wagnerian bass-baritone is a hybrid of sorts: a higher voice than that of a true bass but not altogether a baritone either. Rocky Eugenio Sellers, impressed with an Ol’ man river that offered no challenges to him at either end of the song’s wide range.
Jacob Kincaide, a true bass, poured out a torrent of voice, singing Hagen’s Watch from Gotterdammerung. He later closed the concert with an elegantly sung O Isis und Osiris.
Led by James Slouffman, the Wagner Society of Cincinnati nurtures the development of an audience for the music of Richard Wagner. Their activities offer a welcome showcase of Wagnerian voices to the Cincinnati music scene.
A POST-REVIEW APOLOGY TO THE ARTISTS:
My appreciation and support are unstinting, even if my memory falters now and then. In my writing of the review I mistakenly credited mezzo-soprano Chelsea Duval-Major for her singing of Leonora’s aria from La forza del destino and proceeded to compound my screw up by heaping praise on soprano Andria Helm for singing the letter scene from Werther. In point of fact, Ms. Duval-Major was the singer whom I should have lauded for her lovely rendition of the Massenet and, conversely, praise was meant to be given to Ms. Helm for her debut as a soprano in the Verdi and earlier for a very fine Du bist der Lenz, which I left unmentioned but not forgotten. As you could surmise I could use an editor! That said, apologies and renewed praise all around.