Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 12-19-2011
By Nino Pantano
Gerda Lissner Foundation Honors Singers at Annual Holiday Musicale

Photos by Don Pollard 

BROOKLYN — The Gerda Lissner Foundation, which has done so much for young opera singers by providing scholarships, honored the renowned tenor Jonas Kaufmann and the brilliant soprano Angela Meade at its annual Holiday Musicale at the elegant New York Athletic Club on Friday evening, Dec. 2. Gerda Lissner President Stephen De Maio gave thanks to the many that have assisted the Gerda Lissner Foundation in its quest. I was proud to be on that list. Special thanks were given to his vivacious assistant Cornelia Beigel-Lee and the elegant Karl Michaelisas as well as to Michael A. Fornabaio, vice president and treasurer; Rev. John A. Kamas, secretary; and Dorothy Moore and Barbara Ann Testa, trustees.

Brian Kellow, the features editor of Opera News magazine, was the perfect host. Kellow just wrote a prize-winning biography of film critic Pauline Kael.

Superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann, a native of Munich, was fresh from his triumph as Maurizio in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, with soprano Angela Gheorghiu in the title role at Carnegie Hall, with The Opera Orchestra of New York conducted by the brilliant Alberto Veronesi. Kaufmann is currently starring in a new production of Gounod’s Faust at the Metropolitan Opera.

Kaufmann graciously accepted his crystal glass gift from Mrs. Nora London of the George London Foundation plus a check for his favorite charity. He spoke of his desire to encourage opera as part of the curriculum of every student. Kaufmann won us over with his earnest charm and graciousness. Meade humbly and charmingly acknowledged the importance of the Gerda Lissner Foundation award in her career, which has taken off with her appearances of Anna Bolena at the Metropolitan Opera as well as triumphs everywhere. She then sang “Io Son L’umile Ancella” from Adriana Lecouvreur with power, precision, floating and shimmering tones and a finale that was sheer magic.

The program featuring this year’s honorees began. The superb pianists were Jonathan Kelly and Arlen Shrut.

Kathryn Leemhuis sang the “Seguidilla” from Carmen with a warm full and honeyed mezzo with secure technique and excellent shading. This was a delicious appetizer. The whole Carmen awaits her, and so do we.

Liam Bonner used his penetrating and dark baritone in a poignant “Yeletsky’s Aria” from Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame with excellent shading and a rich textured resonant sound.

Tenor Leonardo Capalbo sang an impassioned “Ma Se M’e Forza Perderti” from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera in the tradition of the great tenor Carlo Bergonzi. Capalbo’s dapper black-and-white shoes and stylish, almost twenties suit were a symbol of his vocal polish and élan.

Mezzo winner Renee Tatum was touring and could not be present.

Last but not least was the most promising bass-baritone of Brandon Cedel, who sang “Aleko’s Cavatina” from Aleko by Rachmaninoff. Cedel will be the redeemer of the great bass tradition. He is truly a force of nature combining the force of Niagara with the colors of the rainbow.

After meeting and greeting the artists, we entered the elegant dining room with fireplace and Christmas trees for a marvelous dinner, including wines and dessert.

Countless figures from the music world were present including Eve Queler, conductor emeritus of the Opera Orchestra of New York; Metropolitan Opera broadcasters Ira Siff and Ken Benson; former legendary Metropolitan Opera sopranos Elinor Ross and Martina Arroyo; opera sopranos Jane Marsh and Teresa Apolei; New York City Opera soprano from Brooklyn Elaine Malbin; mezzo Elaine Bonazzi, and Brooklyn basso Don Yule.

Longtime Amato Opera tenor Vincent Titone and New York Grand Opera sopranos Patricia Kadvan and Victoria Miningham were also present. Cabaret singer and opera autograph dealer-collector Bill Safka added spice to the happy mix. Gloria Gari from the Giulio Gari Foundation and Murray Rosenthal, Philip Hagemann, Janet Stovin, Alfred Hubay and former Met mezzo Jane Shaulis, all with Opera Index, and Brooklyn based Mario Lanza Society’s Bill Ronayne were among the jubilant crowd.

The editor-in-chief of Opera News, F. Paul Driscoll, was present, as were Opera News writer Eric Myers and stage designer Scott Barnes with a flashing Christmas tree pin!

It was a joy to chat with so many friends all united in adding beauty to a world that so desperately needs it. Thanks to Stephen De Maio and his brilliant stewardship of the Gerda Lissner Foundation, it will be smooth sailing for so many young and talented singers. They will benefit from the generosity and largesse of the late Gerda and Herman Lissner who so loved opera and whose contributions will ensure that opera lives on for many years to come.

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