The Consulate General of Greece in New York and Teatro Grattacielo, with support from Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy, co-hosted a concert titled “The 10 Faces of Maria Callas” to commemorate the iconic soprano’s 100th birthday. The program featured nine arias that were among the soprano’s personal favorites.
Young artist soloists Seongeun Luna Park, Eun Byoul Song, Stephanie Rivero, Sasha Gutierrez, and Victoria Davis each brought their distinct styles and artistry to the music, showcasing the diverse talents of the next generation of opera singers. Collaborative pianist Alla Milchtein offered keen support throughout the concert, ensuring a seamless blend of voices and accompaniment. The program’s curator, Stefanos Koroneos, the General and Artistic Director of Teatro Grattacielo, handpicked a selection of gorgeous pieces to honor Callas’ enduring legacy.
Consul General Dinos Konstantinou warmly welcomed each attendee as they arrived at the event. Guests enjoyed wine and canapés while mingling before the performance, setting a convivial atmosphere. In his opening remarks, Konstantinou highlighted Callas’s influence on the opera world and her status as “the most revered soprano in the world.” He also touched upon her turbulent personal life, giving a complete picture of the woman behind the legendary voice.
Born on December 2, 1923, in New York City to Greek immigrant parents, Callas captivated audiences with her dramatic intensity, vocal range, and exceptional technique. Her personal life was as dramatic as her many roles, and her qualities and style were larger than life. “La Divina” delivered powerful performances of works by Verdi, Puccini, and Bellini, among other great opera composers, leaving an indelible mark on the opera world.
“The 10 Faces of Maria Callas” celebrated the artistic spirit that Callas embodied and reminded us of the importance of nurturing young talents in opera. The next superstar is out there, and maybe, they were within the Consulate General of Greece performing in honor of the great soprano. How fitting and how wonderful a thought.
The commentary on individual performances is arranged in order of appearance.
Seongeun Luna Park executed a rendition of “O mio babbino caro” from Giacomo Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” an aria that has garnered immense recognition and adoration within the composer’s output. Having been sung by countless vocalists, it’s hard to provide a unique take on the beloved number, but Park’s was refreshing.
Park’s delivery of the piece showed an adept ability to articulate the melody’s broad contours and touching lyrics through refined phrasing. Though easy to learn, the aria necessitates accuracy and deep emotional resonance, emphasizing a finespun equilibrium between vocal skill and expressive conveyance. Park employed dynamics to craft nuanced variations in intensity and took her time, allowing the audience to savor every note.
Next was the only Mozart piece on the program. Eun Byoul Song presented “Mi tradi quel’ alma” from “Don Giovanni.” Song showcased her vocal control and artistic expression, skillfully handling the aria’s elaborate runs with accuracy, clear diction, and sparkling coloratura. She took the piece fast yet kept her technique well under control.
Stephanie Rivero appeared next and sang “In quelle trine” from Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” demonstrating the character’s multifaceted emotions with subtlety, effectively communicating the depth of sentiment within the music. The aria’s tessitura necessitates confident high notes and polished phrasing, elements Rivero displayed. Her delivery reflected Manon’s doubt about her decision to live with Geronte. She succeeded in expressive communication while moving through a challenging vocal line.
Sasha Gutierrez’s interpretation of “Donde lieta” from “La Bohème” was beautifully rendered. She sounded comfortable in her lower range while exhibiting impressive top notes. Her performance illuminated the intricate interplay of the technical and emotional aspects, and these elements she presented with care. Gutierrez demonstrated strength below and comfort up top.
Park returned to the front of the room for a performance of “Come per me sereno” from Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.” Her command of the silences added to the impact of the piece. Otherwise, she danced along the notes and threw in some well-executed ornamentation. Her diction was crisp, and the overall tone was clear. Park’s approach to this bel canto piece was graceful and elegant, and her lyricism was light as lace.
Gutierrez stepped to the front once more to perform “Merche dilette amiche” from Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani.” The opera is rarely performed but was part of Callas’ repertoire. Gutierrez’s releases were exact. She was particularly delighted with her top notes; her ornamentation, and her expressive vocal line breathing life into the seldom-heard piece.
Moving into the French repertoire, Song’s “Comme autrefois” performance from Bizet’s “Les Pecheurs de Perles” highlighted Bizet’s musical artistry. Her French diction had the requisite nasal quality, and with it came lovely phrasing that produced images of endless fields of flowers.
Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without a performance of “Casta Diva” from Bellini’s “Norma.” The honor was given to Stephanie Rivero. Callas was known as a preeminent interpreter of the role.
The aria is one of the most famous and demanding in the operatic repertoire and requires technical virtuosity and emotional depth. Throughout Rivero’s performance, she showed great control, bringing nuance, subtlety, and strength. She was authoritative in the lower range and very secure up top, where it felt as if there was no ceiling. Rivero brought heart and intention to a distinctly Callas aria.
Lastly, Victoria Davis performed a fantastic rendition of “Tu che invoco” from Spontini’s “La Vestale.” Davis has excellent vocal ability and creative insight and was assured as could be. The last thing on her mind was the notes. The moment she began singing, it was evident her performance was the night’s highlight—the room filled with her bright resonance, immaculate technical management, and a lot of heart.
Davis offered a stirring and unforgettable performance, leaving the audience with an indelible impression. She was, in a word, flawless.