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Espresso Opera: Press

Subject: REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


How many times have those of us who have either worked in opera workshops or have attended recitals by young artists who are virtually unknown among opera conoscenti, and have been totally enraptured by the amazing talent that is out there? Such was the case last
Saturday evening, when Mme.Pamela Kucenic, founder of Espresso Opera presented an exciting recital that featured some of the finest talents we have heard.
I have not the slightest doubt that these artists will have even more successful careers in the future;in fact all of them have already achieved success in various opera companies throughout the country. Those of you who might have limited your opera experience to the Met/City Opera, MUST understand that there are so many amazingly talented artists out there, and this recital was a revelation.
As much as I loved them all, I must specifically give mention to a young tenor who has most recently captured the attention of impresarios, agents, well-known artists, and the reputedly jaded ME. I am speaking of the truly superb voice of tenor Ta'u Pupu'a, former pro football player, who makes it all sound easy. His rich and brilliant singing of excerpts from Mme.Butterfly, Rigoletto, and especially "Non ti scordar di me" thrilled the audience. He has what I call "natural placement." (i.e. every "vowel situation" throughout the range is totally evenly and easily produced and never loses the same brilliance.) If he does not go far, I will surely picket the Met!
Let us not forget the excellent rendition of the difficult "Mi tradi" by soprano Susan Case,also heard in the( British Airways) Lakme duet with the fine Laura Lupinacci as Mallika;baritone Larry Beale Small, filling in for an indisposed baritone at the last minute, sang the aria from "Daniel Webster,' reminding me of the Norma Treigle delivery of the Susannah revival Scene. What a voice this man has! Competing in the baritone fach was another most talented baritone, Ralph Schatzki, singing the Rance aria from Fanciulla as well as I have heard it sung by the so-called "biggies."(Even better!)
They never allow Gildas to take an optional high D at the end of the Rigoletto Quartet (the Muti influence?). Therefore to hear soprano Kristina Semos take the note piano,swell it to a forte, and diminuendo it, was a revelation.She also sang a technically superb "Regnava nel Silenzo" and cabaletta from Lucia. Soprano Deborah Longino was heard with Mr.Pupu'a in the Butterfly Love Duet and then sang a most effecting "Pace," revealing a bright voice with plenty of genuine squillo and warmth of emotion in that music.
The spinto voice of soprano Wilma Wever was astounding in the Tannhauser "Dich Theure halle." The voice is seamless and bright, and I kept saying to myself, "Where have these people been in my life???? Soprano Michelle Pretto sang the Manon Lescaut act two duet and the "Sola perduta" with amazing power and a brilliant top register. She is yet another talent who should go far. Dramatic soprano Pradichaya Poonyarit (wonderful exotic name) sang magnificently in the Act two Chenier duet w. Salvatore Motisi, who will be discussed in a seprate paragraph.
When we did a recent Rigoletto, I met the adorable and talented 8 year old Ingrid Kuribayashi, who is able to negotiate the coluratura runs in the "Esultate Jubilate' and the second part of the "O Zittre Nicht' from Zauberflote (up to a high F,no less),reminding me of another 8 year old who had a not very bad career.(We have video clips of little Belle Silverman at age 8). Ingrid received the only standing ovation of the evening,and deservedly so!
I just put Salvatore Motisi's Otello Monologue on my Google site. When I met Sal at our recent Aida,Trovatore, and Don Carlo, I was amazed at this "old-school" voice, reminding me of the kind of tenor now totally extinct. Shades of de Muro, Cortis, Masini,etc...and Sal's ringing tone and "slancio for days" thrills the hell out of me.
Now we come to the shockeroo! I know Madama Pamela Kucenic as teacher, coach, director,producer, but had NEVER heard her sing a note. As she began the "Suicidio" my jaw dropped to the flloor,as i hears a stream of dramatic soprano tone that was reminiscent of the best of Caterina Mancini or Gina Cigna (but technically BETTER!) The voice is brilliant, with an enormous bright top and amazing chest tones, but like Zinka, smart enough not to ever bring the lower register up too high. Like hubby Mr.Motisi, you just do not hear this brand of truly exciting Italianate singing in these days of "utter purity."
I know this is a long article, but the wonderful evening surely deserved highest and extensive praise, and we look forward to future events as produced by Mme.Kucenic and her company. BRAVA!!!!!! Charlie
Charles Handelman (Apr 24, 2007)
I had so much fun Friday night! I really really loved it. The whole cast and environment was very strong! You all acted and sang with such energy and commitment. It was really refreshing. I am not used to seeing performances such as this. I thought about it for days afterwards. It was one of the most striking operatic performances I have ever seen.
A comment from the Operatic Concert on May 12th. (May 15, 2006)
Brava, bravissima! I'm so glad I made it out to see your opera. The whole thing was so different from the usual big Met experience. So nice to see the conductor working from up close and to have a minimum of stage magic getting in between the singers and me. Ta'u Pupu'a was an athletic singer and really special presence. And, as expected, Clarina Bezzola's performance was totally first rate.


I want to congratulate you again on your staging of Rigoletto. It is so inspiring to see people who yearn to do something, do it. I was indeed inspired. Clarina shined as Gilda.
These are some raves from people who came to see the Rigoletto. (May 10, 2006)