Thank Heaven for Teatro Grattacielo."
—Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, December 10, 2001
—Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, December 10, 2001
Piccolo on the Hearth, by John Yohalem for Parterre Box
It’s a positive relief when a misunderstanding causes jealous anguish – oh great! we sigh; Riccardo Zandoni’s Il Grillo del Focolare is an opera after all. Cast them with Megan Monaghan’s luxurious soprano, and Weston Hurt, a true Verdi baritone with sweeping power and emotional range, and it doesn’t matter how you pronounce Peerybingle. Opera has achieved liftoff.
Zandonai, like so many opera composers, hangs on in the repertory by the thread of a single work, in his case the infrequently revived Francesca da Rimini, a dreary tale of brief, doomed love, drawn out to excessive but scenic length. Francesca, redolent of art nouveau perfume though it be, does not display Zandonai at his best.
One of the missions of Teatro Grattacielo, which has been presenting concert versions of Verismo curiosities for a quarter century now, has been to revive the lesser-known (or more-forgotten) Zandonai operas along with those of Alfano, Leoncavallo, Giordano et al. Last Saturday, at the Gerald Lynch Theater, they gave their third Zandonai piece, and each of them has proved worthier of notice than Francesca.
The latest offering shows us the man in 1905, at 22 years of age, aspiring to a comic opera derived from one of Charles Dickens’s renowned Christmas stories. Four or five operas had already been made on “The Cricket on the Hearth” in various languages. Even English. All are forgotten today. The score is full of charming melody, the orchestration adept and brilliant. Domestic themes soar like Strauss in one of his homebody moods, but if Zandonai knew the early Strauss tone poems, only the technique rubbed off: The line is clean, a soothing, tuneful backdrop to a story full of Dickensian sentiment. There is substance here, not bombast.
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Cassandra, Oct. 8, 2016 Voce de Mece
If ever a neglected work merited unearthing, Vittorio Gnecchi's Cassandra fills the bill. Thanks to the efforts of Teatro Grattacielo's Founding Executive and Artistic Director Duane D. Printz, New York City's dedicated opera lovers had the opportunity to hear this work in concert form at the highly suitable Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College ... This is a superb role for a mezzo-soprano and Alessandra Volpe fulfilled the task with magnificence and a large dusky sound that made her prophesies poignantly terrifying. Her generous tone cut through the orchestration like a warm knife through butter.
The entire cast was well chosen and there wasn't a disappointing voice in the bunch. Soprano Elena O'Connor made a stunning Clitennestra, showing her character's rage in her first aria "No, non propiziarie preci!". We enjoyed the change of colors when she sang of her love for Egisto.
The role of Agamennone is a difficult one and veteran tenor Arnold Rawls tackled the punishingly high tessitura with aplomb. His return to Argolis is marked by the sweetest sound, as if he is totally unaware of the tragedy to come.
Whew!! This powerful story was given the exactly right music by Signor Gnecchi and the opera was given the exactly right production by Teatro Grattacielo. It's too bad we must wait another year for more of Grattacielo's discoveries.
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by John Yohalem
Teatro Grattacielo, the sturdy little company that has presented Italian verismo rarities in concert for twenty-two years, always gives us something to ponder plus a couple of young singers we’re thrilled to encounter. The works themselves have varied, from once-popular antiques of faded, fragrant charm like Zazá, Iris and L’Oracolo to obscurities that seem impressively ready for a proper staging, like La Nave, Siberia and (you were waiting for it, weren’t you?) I Cavalieri d’Ekebù.
This year’s treat was Vittorio Gnecchi’s Cassandra, completed around 1905, a piece with a checkered past, recently disarchived. A couple of remarkable recent presentations can be found on youtube, but this appears to be the work’s first American performance since Rosa Raisa sang it in Philadelphia in 1914. Ergo, a New York premiere! With all that that entails.
The place: Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College, down the street from Lincoln Center, which acoustically puzzling facility does have a balcony from which the chorus can declaim, portraying a horrified crowd, in the evening’s finale. This is in accordance with the hopes of the composer and the librettist, the great Luigi Illica, to give audiences an Ancient Greek sense of being part of the action themselves.
... At last, at the hour mark, mezzo-soprano Alessandra Volpe made her entrance as Cassandra, in a low-cut sky-blue gown—after all, Cassandra is a votary of Apollo—of course she would wear sky blue.
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Zazà, Alice Tully Hall. By Bernard Holland.
NEW YORK, Monday, November 24, 2005. "Zazà is a lesser known, but not a lesser Leoncavallo opera. Toscanini conducted the premiere in 1900, but the piece did not arrive in New York until 1920. ... Ms. Millio has the poise and command of an experienced diva, and with her cries of renunciation summoning the final curtain, she chewed the imaginary scenery to a vastly satisfying consistency. I was taken by the strong, cultured baritone of Stephen Gaertner as Cascart, Zazà's once and soon-to-be-restored lover. ...Ms Milio did very well. Her teary laments may have approached the shameless, but I suspect they are what Leonvacallo had in mind.
The New York Times, November 15, 2007
Sorcery, Lust, Chinatown and Opium: It's All About Opera
Music Review by Vivien Schweitzer
...L'Incantesimo includes a symbolic white fawn, a winter garden that magically bursts into spring and an omnipotent sorcerer... Asako Tamura sang expressively with a bright soprano, and the tenor José Luis Duval ardently conveyed Rinaldo's love for her. The baritone Todd Thomas aptly portrayed Folco.... The standout was the Egyptian bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam as the wizard. Mr. Sewailam was equally persuasive as the wise doctor of L'Oracolo. He used his richly lyrical voice to convey first the commanding dignity, then the rage of the Oracle, who avenges the death of his son, San-Lui. In that role Arnold Rawls sang passionately... as he expressed his love for Ah-Joe, elegantly sung by Ms. Tamura. ... The baritone Daniel Ihn-Kyu Lee and Mabel Ledo, a warm, expressive mezzo-soprano, were persuasive as the businessman Hu-Tsin and the nurse to his child.
"It is clear even in concert that I cavalieri di Ekebù is stageworthy, and Zandonai's densely orchestrated, atmospheric score and forceful vocal writing offer countless opportunities for the opera's large forces. Teatro Grattacielo assembled a first-rate group of soloists..." —Donald Westwood, Opera News, 2001
"…New Yorkers should be tipping their opera hats to Teatro Grattacielo for its noble part in keeping tradition alive." —Patrick Dillon, The American Record Guide, March/April 2002
“…the company had assembled an admirable cast. In the vocally challenging title role, Manon Feubel, a strong dramatic soprano from Quebec, burst upon the scene in her U.S. debut to the acclaim of a large, enthusiastic audience…expressed by Feubel’s voice of dark resonance and seemingly effortless power, with particularly stunning high notes.” —Ruth Berges, OperaCanada, Spring 2003
The New York Times: Alice Tully Hall by Steve Smith
Comedy was surely in short supply in Fascist Italy, but that didn’t prevent Riccardo Zandonai from trying to update the classic opera buffa mode of Rossini and Donizetti in his final completed opera, La Farsa Amorosa (1933). Teatro Grattacielo, a company that specializes in concert performances of neglected Italian operas, presented this work in its North American première on Saturday night. Mr. Zandonai was a masterly orchestrator: La Farsa Amorosa is filled with crafty touches, like crystalline cuckoo clocks, distant donkey brays and bogus-pomp fanfares for Don Ferrante’s entrances. The score unfurls in a ceaseless skein of supple melody and rich orchestration, sometimes rather too rich for so rustic a plot.
“…Teatro Grattacielo found a cast worthy of the occasion. Manon Feubel’s vibrant soprano and expressive generosity made her a most appealing Wally, Frank Porretta sang Hagenbach with welcome security, and Brian Davis’s strong baritone turned Gellner into a particularly dangerous rival.” —Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, December 9, 2002
“…that ever-laudable raider of the operatic attic, Teatro Grattacielo.”
—Patrick Dillon, The American Record Guide, March/April 2003
“To the rescue has come Teatro Grattacielo…Singing the challenging title role was Manon Feubel…her big, dusky voice has cutting power in its top range…A standout was Monica Yunus, a bright-voiced coloratura, in the role of Walter. Under Mr. Ajmone_Marsan, the orchestra gave an exuberant and colorful, if not always tidy, account of this teeming and admirable score.” —Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, November 25, 2002
“Grattacielo’s annual excursion into veristic operatic byways is an ever-welcome adornment of the autumn music calendar;…And this season’s group of solo singers ranked with the strongest Grattacielo has ever had.” —Patrick Dillon, The American Record Guide, March/April 2004
“These troupers, like Silipigni, sensed from the solar plexus what Mascagni was up to. Over rough spots as well as high spots, they took the measure of his risky score.”
—John W. Freeman, Opera News Online, February 2004
“The real astonishment was the magnificent performance by the orchestra, led by Alfredo Silipigni…This orchestra sounded like an opera orchestra that had played together for years…Bravo to Teatro Grattacielo for reviving this very deserving opera.”
—Fred Plotkin, Das Opernglas, February 2004
“As usual, Teatro Grattacielo’s presentation was first-rate. The main hero of the evening was Alfredo Silipigni, still an underrated conductor who is one of the true masters of this repertory.” —Bill Zakariasen, The Westsider, December 25-31, 2003
"Shared Voyage of Discovery During an Opera in Concert...Mascagni's Iris which was presented in concert on Monday night at Alice Tully Hall by Teatro Grattacielo has enough interesting dramatic points to make one dream about how it might look in the theater." ..."an exultant orchestral performance with thrilling choral work."
— Paul Griffiths, The New York Times, November 28, 1998
"100 Birthday Candles for Iris"..."a triumph for the two prima donnas of the evening: the conductor Fiora Contino and the soprano Karen Notare."..."a shower of applause and flowers literally 'flooded' the principals on this splendid event." "Alice Tully Hall was jammed full with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience." "Iris reached moments of great expressive intensity." "A whole other story could be dedicated to the costumes by Charles and Patricia Lester inspired by a refined Orient."—Francesca Gentile, America Oggi, November 27, 1998
"This loving performance made a strong case for the work...l’Arlesiana is a lovely work and there are many other equally worthy operas from the same period waiting to be reassessed, enough to keep Teatro Grattacielo busy for years."
—Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, December 6, 1999
"To judge by the crowd at this art form called "opera in concert," one must give credit to...Teatro Grattacielo for their fortuitous intuition in producing these concerts." "Standing ovations, long, enthusiastic, and joined in by all."
—Gianna Venturini, America Oggi, November 21, 1999
“Teatro Grattacielo…presented the North American premiere of a 1925 work by Riccardo Zandonai that has, at the least, shot to the top of my list of favorite opera titles: I Cavalieri di Ekebù. The large and enthusiastic audience seemed genuinely surprised. Who would have thought that an unknown verismo opera…could be so interesting? —Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, November 23, 2000
“The audience was clearly delighted to discover an important score from a neglected age, and for that Teatro Grattacielo deserves the credit as well as encouragement to forge ahead.” —Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine, December 18-25, 2000
“Last Monday Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center was packed full of audience members with a fine ear who appreciated this unknown masterpiece by the Italian composer with perception and rapture.”…”an event to remember and perhaps a suggestion for future courageous productions in some opera house.” —Gianna Venturini, America Oggi, November 26, 2000
“…I Cavalieri di Ekebù's sprawling, Nordic-picaresque source brought forth masterly and meticulously crafted orchestration, with page upon page of cannily evocative tone painting that moves seamlessly from grotesquerie to gossamer grace. Eerie and stirring, it compels attention and admiration from start to finish, and its rip-roaring, clangorous anvil-chorus finale can rouse an audience to cheering fervor—as indeed it did at Tully Hall.”
—Patrick Dillon, American Record Guide, March/April 2001
"La sorpresa è non poca ad ascoltare opere come Risurrezione di Franco Alfano: si resta colpiti non solo dalla forza espressiva, dalla carica melodica e da quel saper sottolineare quasi alla perfezione stati d'animo e situazioni, ma soprattutto dalla capacità di creare atmosfere anche quando ci si affida ad un'edizione concertante come questa. Ci riferiamo a quanto messo in evidenza l'altra sera al Lincoln Center, all'Alice Tully Hall, da un impeccabile complesso vocale e strumentale qual è quello del Teatro Grattacielo di New York, diretto da Fiora Contino. —Franco Borelli, America Oggi, December 9, 2001
"There is, though, more finesse in the scoring than the "Turandot" finale would lead one to suppose, with some nice viola solos and passages for divided cellos…Such moments were well served in this performance…There was some fine singing, too…Michael Corvino used grave tone and urgent yet supple phrasing to give a convincing charge to Simonson…Michele Fiammardente brought an eager and stylish Italianate tenor sound to the…role of Dimitri. Virginia Dupuy was a firm and glowing mezzo… Allison Charney looked wonderful and produced the right sort of fresh, vulnerable sound…"
—Paul Griffiths, The New York Times, December 6, 2001
"Grattacielo's performance conducted with know-how by Fiora Contino, was almost without exception very fine. The show-stealing baritone involved was Michael Corvino whose sonorous voice strikingly recalls the late Ettore Bastianini…tenor Michele Fiammardente sang with assurance and passion…soprano Allison Charney was a virtual clone of a young Licia Albanese…Without exception, the large supporting cast was beyond criticism, as was the Cantori New York Chorus…"
—Bill Zakariasen, The Westsider, December 13-19, 2001
"A new and important New York opera company made its debut in Alice Tully Hall the last week in March -- the Teatro Grattacielo, which gave us a rare hearing of the once-popular musical stage-work by Italo Montemezzi, L'Amore dei Tre Re.
—Bill Zakariasen, The Westsider, April 10-16, 1997
"Italo Montemezzi's opera L'Amore dei Tre Re...was performed in concert on March 26 and Tully Hall was quite full for the occasion, a welcome evening all around." "Teatro Grattacielo cast their L'Amore with love and care. "It was good to hear L'Amore again, and performed so very well. Thank you." —Bill Wechsler, The New York Theatre Wire.Com, April 1997
"Teatro Grattacielo, New York City's newest opera-in-concert company, made an auspicious debut at Alice Tully Hall on March 26 with an impassioned performance of Italo Montemezzi's sadly neglected L'Amore dei Tre Re (1913)."
- Marylis Sevilla-Gonzaga, Opera NewsG, August 1997