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 http://www.martinaarroyofdn.org/prelude/faq.html 

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 http://www.martinaarroyofdn.org/prelude/apply.html. 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!

Monday, October 6, 2014

MAF in Opera News!

Excerpts from Prelude to Performance Review from October 2014 Issue of Opera News

La Traviata (7/10/14) & Il Barbiere di Siviglia (7/11/14)

Prelude to Performance | Martina Arroyo Foundation
Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance, a six-week, tuition-free intensive program for emerging professionals, celebrated its tenth anniversary season with impressive productions of La Traviata (July 10) and Il Barbiere di Siviglia (July 11). The star of the former was the aptly named Cecilia Violetta Lopez, whose confident, shining Violetta was exceptional, especially if, as her bio suggested, this was her first time out of the gate in the role. Lopez has a sumptuous, flexible soprano that carries emotion easily without ever being overwhelmed by it. She used the first act pyrotechnics to great expressive effect, crowning “Sempre libera” with an E-flat that was as beautiful as it was triumphant. The tripartite nature of Violetta’s vocal demands posed no problems for Lopez, whose soprano adjusted easily to the richer, impassioned singing required in Act II and the transcendental poignancy necessary to carry Act III. 

"La Traviata" principals and chorus sing
Act I ensemble "Libbiamo ne' lieti calici." 

Paul Han’s distinctively mellow-toned tenor was a departure from the Italianate cry one is accustomed to in an Alfredo. His musically nuanced approach revealed a thoughtful innocence that was a perfect foil to Lopez’s voluptuous worldliness, but he mustered rage when called for. …. Robert Kerr delivered a firmly sung Germont, ….. Samuel McDonald seethed and stewed as a tightly coiled Baron, Marisan Corsino was a flirtatious Flora, and Tyrone Chambers II a life-of-the-party Gastone. Director Laura Alley kept the chorus energized and engaged, and created attractive stage pictures…. there was an insightful one, such as allowing Violetta to sing “È strano” to Annina. This gave Elizabeth Kelsay an opportunity to make Annina a closet romantic, nurturing a vicarious investment in Violetta’s success with Alfredo.  

Thompson, Grosvenor, Kent, Scott, Buora (left to right)
sing Act III quintet in "Barbiere di Siviglia."

A winning cast delivered a thoroughly enjoyable Barbiere, with vocal honors going to mezzo Kirsten Scott’s vibrant, vivacious Rosina. Scott sailed through the coloratura with creamy tone and charm to burn. She lacked only the sense of desperation to be free of her situation: it all seemed like a game from which she derived enjoyment at every turn, instead of a daring escape plot that could go wrong at any minute with dire consequences. Despite the occasional tremor, Alasdair Kent’s Count Almaviva exhibited a sweet, limber tenor and was the picture of dreamy nobility. Samuel Thompson was a wry, easygoing Figaro, and he sang with an attractively focused, resonant baritone. He opted out of the high G in “Largo al factotum,” but made a bit out of it.  Plaudits belong to Paul Grosvenor (Basilio) and Jacopo Buora (Bartolo), who created characterizations so idiosyncratic that one can’t imagine anyone else coming up with them. Grosvenor physicalized “La calunnia” with fluid, swami-like gestures bordering on interpretive dance. Buora is a natural buffone, and he spat out the patter in “Un dottor’ della mia sorte” to perfection. Actor Kimun Kim gave a master class in scene stealing as an ancient, doggedly single-minded Ambrosio. His slow, shuffling cross bearing a rubber chicken and a butcher knife to the kitchen was completely in character, which made it truly hilarious instead of randomly silly. Jennifer Lazarz’s harried, sneezy Berta was a delight, and she seized her moment alone onstage to zing home her aria with authority. Met veteran Anthony Laciura’s direction ranged from sprightly to slapstick… The men’s chorus, led by Paull-Anthony Keightley’s juicily sung Fiorello in Act I and Bongani Ndhlalane’s amusingly wrong-footed Officer in Act II, sang with precision and clarity.

Conductors Daniel Lipton (Traviata) and Willie Anthony Waters (Barbiere) kept the tempos brisk and the ensemble together….., . The versatile French door sets by Joshua Rose, colorful, extravagant costumes by Charles Caine, and refreshingly flattering wigs by Steven Horak did their part to show these talented young performers to their best advantage.  


Sunday, September 28, 2014

2015 Season Auditions

Applications are currently being accepted for the upcoming Prelude to Performance season.  This year, in addition to providing a tuition free learning and performance opportunities to our young singers, we are now offering stipends.  We are very excited to make this available to our artists!

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
(Single cast, 2 performances each with covers)

PROGRAM DATES: May 31-July13, 2015

NYC Auditions: Dec. 12-14, 2014 / Jan. 16-18, 2015 / Feb. 20-22, 2015

(Application fee, $35)

Auditor's Program: We also offer an Auditing program (not tuition free) http://www.martinaarroyofdn.org/prelude/faq.html


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Scandals and Schemes! Opera Highlights Concert Today at 3:00 pm

Lang Hall, Hunter College
Enter East 69th Street

Today at 3:00 pm we will host our annual Highlights Concert featuring some of our very talented young artists.  Join us for a glorious afternonoon of arias, duets and ensembles from our upcoming operas, Verdi's La Traviata and Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. 

The concert is a preview with piano for the upcoming fully staged productions showing July 10-13 at Hunter College. 

Maestro Willie Anthony Waters
Maestro Nicholas Fox
Noby Ishida, Piano
Ed Bak, Piano

For more information call: (212) 315-9190 or go to www.martinaarroyofdn.org

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ira Siff Masterclass TONIGHT at 6:00 pm EST

Brecher Hall, Hunter College
Enter E. 69th St. btwn Park & Lex | Livestream URL

Join us this evening at 6:00 pm EST for our fifth masterclass this season with Ira Siff.  Mr. Siff has established himself as a knowledgeable authority in opera as a lecturer, featured journalist for Opera News magazine, commentator on Metropolitan Opera broadcasting, vocal coach, director, master teacher, and much more.  We look forward to hearing his insights this evening!

Tonight's masterclass will be held in Brecher Hall in the 5th floor of Hunter College.  Please enter from East 69th.  If you're not able to join in person you can watch the event in realtime here.

To read more about Mr. Siff click here for his website.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Richard Leech Masterclass Today at 2:00 pm

Today, June 14 from 2:00 - 5:00 pm, the extraordinary Tenor, Richard Leech will work with our Prelude to Performance singers.  This wonderful masterclass will be held in Brecher Hall on the 5th Floor of Hunter College.  Please enter throughout the East 69th Street entrance.  (There is no access to the event from E. 68th.)
Richard Leech

Note that there is no live streaming this time, so be sure to come in person!  The event is free of charge and open to the public.

For more details about Richard Leech, click here.

Stay up to date on all Prelude to Performance masterclasses and events at www.martinaarroyofdn.com.

Friday, June 13, 2014

On Conducting: With Maestro Daniel Lipton

By: Alicia Waller

I must confess that I’ve been sneaking into rehearsals of Verdi’s La Traviata.  How could I not?  The music is positively sumptuous and the show’s cast is well up to the challenge.  Their singing has radiated through the halls on the fifth floor of Hunter College, and it’s delightful.

Wanting to hear more about the rehearsal process, earlier this week I sat down with the other of our two conductors this season, Maestro Daniel Lipton, who will take the helm for the opera this year.  As usual, I’d like to share a bit of our conversation with you.

How are things going in rehearsal?
I think we’re covering a lot of ground and getting to the crux of what singing in opera means – what all get’s involved in it and all of the various and sundry details one must go through.  The things that one must think about before one even starts to sing.  I think the program is doing a lot of good for the young singers.
Maestro Daniel Lipton

How long have you been with Prelude?
This is my first year.  But, I’ve known Martina for a long time.  We worked for six years together in South America.

What were you working on together?

Yes.  I started an opera company in Bogotá, Colombia.  We were like the Metropolitan Opera in South America. 

Is this your first time working in a Young Artist Program – working with young singers in this way?

Is there anything in particular that you look for [when conducting]?  And, before coming here was there anything specific you wanted to hear from the young singers?
No, I had absolutely no preconceived notions.  I left my mind completely open.  Which is a much better way to receive things.  You have no decision to go in a specific direction – you just go with the flow.  I must say that many of the singers are at a very high level and standard.  I’m very pleased at the way my conducting is helping to mold what they are doing with the music.  It’s very satisfying to have this rapport with the singers that are adept at following [a conductor] and capturing what I’m trying to show with my facial gestures and emotions.  When that happens, it’s great because you know you’re transmitting a [flowing] of music to an artist.  That’s what a conductor tries to do.

Would you say you have a conducting style, or is it that you try to stay open?
That’s one way to put it.  I don’t know my style because I don’t watch myself conduct.  I avoid watching videos of me or hearing audios of my conducting.  There are a lot DVD’s out there which I’ve never seen – a lot of CD’s that I’ve never heard.  I have a tendency to avoid them.  I could perhaps learn from them, but on the other hand I don’t want to be influenced by what I see and here.  I may throw down the baton!  [Laughing] No, I don’t have tantrums as a rule.

My philosophy is that every performance is unique.  Every performance is my first and last.  So, I give it my all each time because in the audience there might be someone who has never heard an opera in their life.  I try to arrive very early and am usually the last to leave.  [The podium] is my home.  That’s what I’m about.

Going back to young singers.  Is there any difference between how you work with the young singers here versus seasoned professionals?
You don’t have to explain so much with seasoned professionals.  You don’t nitpick as much because if I keep harping on rhythm and accents – a seasoned performer might not take that so well.  But, that also depends on the performer.  I find the greater the performer; the easier it is to work with them. 

How do you prepare for your work?
I just try to learn the music as well as possible.

Do you have a favorite composer?
The one I’m conducting.  And each time, if it’s a different composer, then they are my favorite.  When I conduct Mozart, he is my favorite.  When I conduct Verdi, he is my favorite.  When I conduct Puccini, he is my favorite.  I’m sort of a Don Giovanni with my music – each one is my favorite!

Yesterday when I sat through your rehearsal Violetta (Cecilia Lopez) started to tear through her Act II scene with Germont (Robert Kerr).  Emotionally, I wanted to ask you, how are you guys getting through this each day?  Do you find it emotionally taxing?
When you’re in it, you just bathe in it.  You don’t think how many times you’ve done it – how many times you’ve repeated this phrase.  The emotion is rekindled each time as though you’ve never done it before.  Then goose pimples pop up when you’re doing the right thing.

Finally, young singer to seasoned conductor, do you have any recommendation that you would like impart to young singers that are looking ahead at a career like this that is quite a steep pyramid to climb?
Well, what I insist is that singers approach a score for the first time without hearing any other interpretation before they make it their own.  Then, they should work on rhythm, libretto and text before they even start the music.  When that comes secure, then they can add the horizon on top of it.

Thank you so much!
You’re very welcome.

Thanks again for reading.  To read more about Maestro Lipton click here for his website.  You can also follow us at @martinazprelude for up to date information on our rehearsal process, performances and masterclasses.  And, feel free to tweet me with your questions @aliciaenvivo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

George Shirley Masterclass TODAY

Wednesday, June 11 at 6:00 pm EST
Brecher Hall, Hunter College
Enter E. 69th St. btwn Park & Lex | Livestream URL

Please join us for our second Masterclass this season with Tenor, Dr. George Shirley.  The masterclass will take place in Brecher Hall at Hunter College from 6:00-9:00 pm EST.  You may enter the building from the East 69th Street entrance between Park and Lexington Avenues.

If you are unable to join in person, join us online with our livestream URL here.

We are so thrilled to have Dr. Shirley with us this evening.  His legendary performing career has spanned decades and taken him all over the world.  Additionally, he is an equally gifted and seasoned educator.  We look forward to hearing his wisdom on the vocal arts this evening.

To read more about our guest master teacher, please click here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Diana Soviero Masterclass

Soprano, Diana Soviero, who has been proclaimed as one of the world's greatest singing actresses, will open the Martina Arroyo Foundation's Prelude to Performance Master Series, Saturday June 7th from 2-5p.m. at Lang Recital Hall, Hunter College. (Enter E. 69th st. between Park and Lexington Ave.) The event is  free and open to the public.

For those who cannot attend the wonderful Diana Soviero masterclass in person, you can watch the live stream at:

For those attending, it is in Lang Recital Hall, Hunter College.

Diana Soviero Masterclass Livestream

Saturday, June 7 at 2:00 pm

For those who cannot make the wonderful Diana Soviero masterclas in person, Saturday, June 7 from 2:00 - 5:00 pm EST, you can view the event in realtime online here.

For those attending in person, please note that the masterclass is now located in Lang Recital Hall on the 4th floor of Hunter College.  Enter the building at East 69th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.

See you there!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tips on Bel Canto

By: Alicia Waller
Gioacchino Rossini
I’ve always thought the operatic voice was the pinnacle of singing.  Of course, I’m prone to think that as a young student of voice and opera studies.  Nevertheless, the voice’s capacity for endless expression is undeniable.  It is like a fingerprint.  Though two voices may be similar, they will never be exactly the same.  We singers are products of nature and nurture.  We are products of our generation, where we’ve grown up, how we’ve grown up, our early musical influences and of course the natural instrument.  There are countless other factors that inspire our individual sounds as well; one of the most important being the years of carefully cultivated learning that this style of singing requires.

Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Gioacchino Rossini stands amongst an elite few operas as a definitive representation of the Bel Canto art form and period.  As such, rehearsals for this opera under the baton of Maestro Willie Anthony Waters have been incredibly informative, and have reminded me of some of the things that make Bel Canto singing “beautiful.”  I’d like to share some of the tips I’ve learned with you!  Keep in mind, they are also entirely relevant for our other opera this season, Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata.

(1)  When looking for meaning in your text favor the verb.  Meaning, go towards it in your phrasing.
(2)  Most musical phrases should have some element of crescendo and diminuendo.  
(3)  Always sing through your vowels.  This tip never gets old, and I can never be reminded enough!
(4)  The accompaniment in Bel Canto is often the same no matter the sentiment.  As such, the singer should show intention both musically and visually as an actor.

Thanks again for reading! 

Please contact us with any questions or ideas for future blog posts.  You can follow us on twitter @martinazprelude or @aliciaenvivo.