Friday, July 6, 2018

Melanie Spector, Nannetta auditor, blogs about Prelude's first week!

Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance 2018: Week 1
By : Melanie Spector (Nannetta Auditor)

The first week of Martina Arroyo’s 2018 Prelude to Performance program is officially in the books! Just in the last five days, Hunter College has been bustling with activity in preparation for the two operas Prelude will be presenting at the end of the six-week program: Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff and Gaetano Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. I am so excited to be auditing the role of Nannetta in Falstaff and to be on this journey with so many other young singers.
     On Monday, June 4, the very first day of the program, all Prelude participants first gathered in Brecher Hall at Hunter College for a “Meet and Greet” with Martina and the Prelude staff. Laughter is inevitable when Martina is in the room; she had everyone in stitches as she introduced the Prelude faculty and production team. Introducing Steven Horak, the wigmaster for both shows, she said something along the lines of, “He used to make me look so beautiful that I would walk down the hallway and people would stop and say ‘Well hello, Ms. Price!” After sharing many more laughs, Prelude participants took a tour of the Hunter College Music Department following a delicious lunch provided by the Prelude staff. We were shown where coachings would take place, where practice rooms are located, and most importantly, “Café Prelude”, which will be supplying coffee and snacks through the duration of the program.
     No sooner had we broken the ice and shaken out our first day-jitters when it was time for the principals, covers, and auditors of Falstaff and Don Pasquale to report to Brecher Hall and the Black Box Theater, respectively, for musical run-throughs of both shows! Richard Cordova, a longtime pianist and coach with Prelude, and Steven Crawford, longtime conductor, took their podiums and led the first rehearsals of the program. (As I am auditing Nannetta, I can only attest to the production of Falstaff). Principals sat in front, covers behind them, and auditors in the last row. While Verdi’s score, which entails the delightful tale of Merry Wives of Windsor, is fun, it is also very complex in its rapid shifts from small ensemble to recitativo to big ensemble to love duet. It was no surprise that the first musical run-through did not run as smooth as silk, but all of us left Hunter raving about how talented we thought the principals sounded and anticipating how wonderful it will be to study Verdi’s masterpiece in depth.
     Over the next three days, from 10:00-6:00, the Falstaff team rehearsed Acts I, II, and III, respectively, with the principals and covers. The auditors continued to observe and take copious notes on the characters they are shadowing, as well as other characters and various aspects of the score. Maestro Cordova drilled the singers on Italian double consonants, strict rhythms, and his mantra of “breathing in tempo”. In earlier Verdi operas, as the Maestro pointed out, there are more opportunities to take time for effect and breathing. For example: Most Violettas do not sing “E’ strano” strictly in tempo as they begin “Ah fors’ e lui…Sempre libera” from La Traviata; They usually elongate that “strano” for dramatic effect. On the other hand, in Falstaff, Verdi leaves very little room for interpretation when it comes to rhythm and tempo. It is crucial that ensembles are crisp and precise in order to convey the comedy Verdi and Boito created, with help from Shakespeare.
     For auditors and second covers, Tuesday and Thursday’s work extended into the evening as we reported for Falstaff chorus rehearsals with director Noby Ishida. Noby, in addition to coaching at Hunter College and directing many other choruses, has directed the Prelude chorus for the past several seasons. His wonderful anecdotes and good humor put us in the perfect mood as we began to tackle the famous final fugue “Tutto nel mondo è burla” (All the world is a joke). Piecing together the fugue is a universal challenge for opera companies ranging from the Met to young artist programs, but by the end of the first week, we managed to run it without, what many musicians like to call, a “train wreck”.
     After a long four days of music rehearsals, on Friday it was time to begin staging Act I with director Ian Campbell. Mr. Campbell has directed numerous productions for Prelude, including Suor Angelica/Gianni Schicchi (2017) and La Bohème (2016). In order to scope out the singers and get an understanding of their capability, Mr. Campbell was present at all of the music rehearsals during the week. Before we began, he stressed how important it is to be perpetually prepared, whether for rehearsals or for a sick colleague at the very last minute. He also warned us that comedy is difficult, but with the right timing and strong eye contact, we could put on a wonderful show. Throughout the week, he advised us and gave us other wonderful tips for conquering the industry. I believe I speak for the rest of the Prelude participants in saying that we look forward to hearing more of his valuable advice over the next five weeks.
     Next week we continue staging Falstaff while adding nuances and other layers. We also begin classes, including Italian/Libretto taught by Sergio Stefani; Movement with Wendy Taucher; Stage Combat with Brad Lemons; and Martina’s Role Class. This coming Thursday, June 14, selected Prelude participants will have the chance to sing in a mock audition/master class for artist agent Ken Benson, followed by a Q&A session for all Prelude participants. All of us at Prelude are looking forward to what is to come as we approach the performance dates of Falstaff and Don Pasquale: July 13 and 14 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

New York Times Review for Madama Butterfly

Thank you Mr. Tommasini!

From left, Hyona Kim, Akari Wientzen and Brandie Sutton in Puccini’s opera at the Kaye Playhouse. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times
At her wedding, early in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” Cio-Cio-San coyly answers a question from Sharpless, the American consul in Nagasaki, about her age. She is 15, she says, adding, “I’m already old.”
Sharpless can hardly hide his shock. Though alarmed by the cavalier way that Pinkerton, an American Navy lieutenant, has courted Cio-Cio-San, the geisha known as Butterfly, he has not really tried to prevent this marriage. But 15? That’s an age for “playing games,” Sharpless says.
Though Cio-Cio-San is a teenager, and Pinkerton a young man, these roles require mature, rich, full voices. Even singers well into their 30s are often too underdeveloped.
So it was affecting to see such a gifted and committed young cast in “Madama Butterfly” on Thursday night when the Martina Arroyo Foundation, which provides training and performance opportunities to emerging singers, presented a production at Hunter College, the first of two offerings in the foundation’s Prelude to Performance program.
Taehwan Ku, the tenor singing Pinkerton, is in the master’s degree program at Manhattan School of Music. The soprano Brandie Sutton, portraying Cio-Cio-San, at 32, is in the early stage of a professional career and already has some significant credits. If, now and then, you could hear signs of effort in their singing, the freshness and expressivity of the performances won you over. The detailed, confident work of the entire cast surely resulted from good coaching during the weeks of preparation that the program provides. And the 660-seat Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College is a helpfully intimate space for young voices.
Ms. Sutton brought a warm, ample voice to Cio-Cio-San, with nice bloom in her high notes and tenderness in soft, melting phrases. There is already a distinctive, earthy coloring in her sound that she used to advantage in Cio-Cio-San’s moments of shame and despair, when it sinks in that Pinkerton, gone for three years, has returned, but with an American wife.
Mr. Ku’s voice, though still light for the role, has natural warmth and ping. He may have lacked the swagger that Pinkerton should have. But he was at his best during the soaring, emotionally complex duet with Cio-Cio-San on their wedding night, when Pinkerton wonders whether his powerful desire is a passing whim or a real emotional claim.
The production, directed by Gina Lapinski, though simple and traditional in look, was sensitive and nuanced. Hyona Kim, a vibrant mezzo-soprano, was an endearingly good-hearted Suzuki, Cio-Cio-San’s servant. Alexander Lee brought a bright tenor voice and impish vitality to Goro, the scheming marriage broker. Young Kwang Yoo’s solid baritone voice and stolid bearing suited Sharpless.
At the core of the performance was the excellent, experienced conductor Willie Anthony Waters, who drew stylish and urgent, if sometimes scrappy, playing from the orchestra.

The Martina Arroyo Foundation’s Prelude to Performance program concludes with “Madama Butterfly” on Saturday evening, and Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment” on Sunday afternoon, Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, Manhattan; 212-772-4448,

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Prelude Alum Ryan Speedo Greene Named BBC Cardiff Finalist

Bass-baritone, Ryan Speedo, has been named one of the 20 finalists of the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.    Ryan is an alum of Prelude seasons 2010 and 2011. 

Finals will take place during June 14-21 in Cardiff, Wales.  To learn more about the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, click here.  Cardiff is a tremendously selective competition that is responsible for launching many successful careers.  Congratulations, Ryan!

To learn more about Ryan, visit his website at

Monday, January 12, 2015

About Us

We are very proud of the work that we do at the Martina Arroyo Foundation, and every one of our talented young performers.  Check out our latest video to get to know us and our singers a little better.

To learn more about us, click here.  Stay tuned to our blog and website for a more in-depth look at the MAF family.  An expanded video is soon to follow!

If you are interested in applying to Prelude to Performance, don't delay!  The deadline to apply four auditions on Feb 20, 21 and 22 is fast approaching on Feb 13.  Operas for the 2015 season are Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Donizetti's Fille du Regiment.  Prelude to Performance (May 31-July 13) is a tuition free program with limited stipends of $3,000-1,500 available for major roles and covers, and $750 for selected smaller roles.  Apply online through Yaptracker.  Or visit the Prelude website for a paper application.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our 10th Anniversary Gala: Celebrating Ten Years Together

Each year, the Martina Arroyo Foundation gathers with friends and family to celebrate the accomplishments of our young singers and honor the work of our esteemed colleagues.  This year was no different except, of course, that it was MAF's 10th Anniversary Gala.  So, on Monday, November 17, 2014 we celebrated in style at the JW Marriot Essex House on Central Park South in NYC.

This year's Gala, which featured alums from MAF's inaugural Prelude to Performance season in 2005 as well newer alums from the recent 2014 summer season, honored Opera Index, Nanette Lepore, Mark Rucker, Sadie Rucker, and Maestro Willie Waters.  Mo. Waters received the Michel Maurel award, named for Ms. Arroyo's late husband.  Mark Rucker, Sadie Rucker, Waters, and the Opera Index all received recognition for their work with Prelude since its inception in 2005.  Mark Rucker as the Administrative Director, Sadie Rucker as Publicity Director, Waters as Music Director and the Opera Index as a key supporter. Lepore received recognition for her work as a fashion designer as well for her support of MAF.

Lawrence Brownlee
Photo Credit: Ken Howard
The Gala program began with an exciting performance of "Il Prologo" from Il Pagliacci, sung by Robert Kerr, baritone (2012/14).  And, from there the excitement never stopped.  Michele Angelini, tenor (2005) serenaded the audience with the "Ah, il più lieto" cabaletta from Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Andrew Cummings, baritone (2005/08) stirred with "Se vuol ballare" from Le Nozze di Figaro; Yunnie Park, soprano (2011/13) let her top notes shine with "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from La Rondine; and Nicole Haslett, soprano (2012) sang Nanetta's aria from Falstaff exquisitely.  Soprano, Brandie Sutton (2013) wowed with a surprise performance of a new piece written and accompanied by composer, Dr. Stefania de Kenessey.  The aria called, "My First Aida" was a treat for the audience and Ms. Arroyo alike.  All other ensemble and solo performances were securely helmed by Mo. Lloyd Arriola at the piano.  Thank goodness for one-man orchestras.

Internationally renowned tenor and MET Opera star, Lawrence Brownlee also made a special appearance.  At once entertaining the audience with memories of Ms. Arroyo from his early career, and then dazzling us with a glorious performance of "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'Elisir d'Amore

Alums from Prelude's 2014 season sang the Act II finale from La Traviata, "Alfredo! Voi!"  The ensemble included:

Cecilia López, soprano……..….Violetta
Paul Han, tenor…………………Alfredo
Robert Kerr, baritone……………..Germont
Marisan Corsino, mezzo………..Flora
Tyrone Chambers, tenor……….Gastone
Samuel McDonald, baritone…...Barone
John E. Callison, baritone……...Marchese

Additional ensemble members included Alicia Waller, soprano; Marcelis Campo, soprano; Laura Folque, mezzo; Mark Nimar, tenor; and Steven Kirby, bass-baritone.  

A final tribute was offered by the 2014 Prelude to Performance alums mentioned above, as well as a few more:

Benjamin Bloomfield '08/'13
Meredith Mecum '09
Alexandra Smith '09/'10
Megan Picerno '11
Maggie Szcekan '12/'13
Scott Linkdroth '10
Fleur Barron '09/'10
Rachel Sliker '07
Tamara Rusque '13
Nina Riley '07/'08
Alex Pikarsky '10/'11

So many alums and MAF supporters were a part of this celebration.  It was truly a special evening, and we had a blast.  Take a look at some pictures below.  Here's to another great year!

Nanette Lepore and Martina.
Mo. Willie Waters and Martina.
Brian Kellow and Midge Woolsey.
Murray Rosenthal for the Opera Index.
Mark Rucker, Sadie Rucker, and Cecilia Teng (Gala Chair).
Robert Kerr '12/'14
Michele Angelini '05

Brandie Sutton '13
In addition to being a great excuse for celebration, the annual Gala serves as MAF's principal fundraiser for the Foundation and its summer Prelude to Performance program.  Through the generous support of contributing individuals and organizations, we have been able to transition from a fee-based program to a tuition-free program.  This year, we are taking another step forward by offering stipends of $3,000 for principal roles and covers, and $750-1,500 for select secondary roles.  MAF, Prelude, and our talented young artists have all grown tremendously from the support of our sponsors, and we need you, too!  If you are interested in learning more about membership with Martina Arroyo Foundation and how to donate to Prelude to Performance, click here.

Yunnie Park '11/'13
Nicole Haslett '12
Andrew Cummings '05/'08
Marisan Corso, Samuel McDonald, and Cecilia López.
Dr. Stefania di Kenessey at piano.
Alicia Waller, Marcelis Campo, Paul Han, Steven Kirby,
Tyrone Chambers, Marisan Corsino, John Callison, and
Laura Folque.
Prelude alums gather to sing "Libbiamo ne' lieti calici"
 from Verdi's La Traviata for the Gala finale.

All Photo Credits: Sarah Merians
Photos taken at the JW Marriott Essex House, 160 Central Park South, New York, NY

Monday, November 24, 2014

Martina Arroyo Featured on NY1: TWC News

Our very own Martina Arroyo was interviewed recently by Cheryl Wills of Time Warner Cable News. Continue reading below to see the article, and click here to view the interview.

Way to Go, Martina!

Opera Legend Martina Arroyo Helps Others Raise the Bar
By Cheryl Wills, TWC News

In Martina Arroyo's hey day in the 1960s and 70s, her voice soared and her tone was rich. To hear her speak at age 77, not much has changed.

"New York is home. I love Paris and many other cities of the world to stay for a while but I've gotta come back to New York," says Arroyo.  

Arroyo is a dyed in the wool New Yorker. Raised on the streets of Harlem to a black mother and Puerto Rican father Arroyo never forgot her humble roots, even as her illustrious career took her around the globe.

President Barack Obama and the nation paid tribute to the grand dame who helped break down racial barriers in the opera world at the Kennedy Center Honors last year. Click here to read more.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MAF to Provide Stipends to Principal Cast and Covers

GREAT NEWS! THE MARTINA ARROYO FOUNDATION PRELUDE TO PERFORMANCE PROGRAM IS NOT ONLY TUITION FREE BUT NOW WILL  OFFER STIPENDS! In addition to our Tuition-Free program, we are happy to offer stipends for our 2015 season. Full stipends, $3,000, will be offered for major roles and their covers. Selected smaller roles will be offered  partial stipends, $1,500 - $750. All will be determined by the Prelude to Performance Artistic Staff. For more detailed information please go to 

Auditions are Dec. 12,13,14; Jan. 16,17,18 and Feb.20,21,22. Go to Yaptracker (if applying by credit card) or to Apply now to secure your audition!

The operas for this summer are Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Donizetti's,La Fille du Regiment!

More great news! One of our wonderful Masterclass presenters for summer 2015 is the legendary conductor, Maestro Richard Bonynge!