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The Richard Tucker Music Foundation Presents Its Gala 2017, at Carnegie Hall
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The Richard Tucker Music Foundation Presents Its Gala 2017, at Carnegie Hall

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Richard Tucker Music Foundation

Gala 2017

Stephanie Blythe, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Tara Erraught
Anthony Clark Evans, Vittorio Grigolo, Ailyn Pérez
Ekaterina Semenchuk, Pene Pati, Tamara Wilson
Rachel Willis-Sørensen, Matthew Curran
Nadine Sierra
(2017 Richard Tucker Award Winner)

Maestro Nicola Luisotti
Members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
New York Choral Society


Carnegie Hall
Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 10, 2017

The Richard Tucker Music Foundation, founded in 1975, is named for the 20th Century, Brooklyn-born Richard Tucker, who began his career as a cantor and textile salesman and became one of the most famous operatic tenors in the world. Richard Tucker’s son, Barry Tucker, President of the Foundation, spoke to tonight’s Gala audience at Carnegie Hall about the Foundation’s mission and about tonight’s artists and arias. The Foundation awards one promising artist each year, who’s “on the threshold of a major international career” a monetary gift of $50,000 to facilitate and expedite that artist’s success. The Foundation also confers $10,000 Career Grants to rising opera artists currently performing with national or international companies, and $5,000 Study Grants to students at the beginning of their careers. Past Richard Tucker Award Winners were on tonight’s roster of performers, such as Stephanie Blythe, Ailyn Pérez, and Tamara Wilson, who won the major annual awards of, respectively, 1999, 2012, and 2016. This year’s Richard Tucker Award Winner, Nadine Sierra, soprano, who enjoyed endless audience accolades throughout the evening, has also been awarded a Study Grant and a Career Grant by this Foundation in previous years.

Twelve opera artists performed solo, duo, and one full ensemble work tonight, joined at times by the lush, extraordinary New York Choral Artists. Maestro Nicola Luisotti, Music Director of San Francisco Opera, masterfully conducted tonight’s concert of nineteen operatic selections. Members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra were in the pit with Maestro Luisotti. This concert was broadcast live on WQXR radio, where an online replay is now available. The award-winning star of the evening, Nadine Sierra, is filled with charm and personality, waving to her fans in the crowd. She exudes elegance and charisma, and her vocal talent is astounding. After the Met Orchestra performed the Overture from Verdi’s Nabucco, with its dramatic, poignant theme and its galloping string finale, Ms. Sierra took the stage by storm, with a stunning blue gown (each female opera artist changed equally stunning gowns between each aria) for “Caro Nome” from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Ms. Sierra sings with extensive capacity to elongate her notes with perfected timing, and this aria included extended solos with no orchestral accompaniment, to introduce her mastery to the Hall.

Ms. Sierra returned to the stage with Pene Pati, tenor, for a gorgeous duet, “Ah forse lui…”. from Verdi’s La Traviata, and later with Vittorio Grigolo, tenor, for the Balcony Scene and “Tonight” from Bernstein’s West Side Story. This was a true highlight of the evening, as Mr. Grigolo, who has been very favorably reviewed on these pages in Met Opera productions, on stage and film, has compelling dramatic and vocal techniques. His persuasively romantic tenor tones filled the Hall. Mr. Pati, in his NY debut, also returned to the stage for “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, with vocal power and poise. Mr. Grigolo, as well, returned to the stage for “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, with a mask and makeup, bringing down the house with his full-throated, dynamic rendition.

Ailyn Pérez, soprano, mentioned above as a past Tucker Award Winner, is another must-be-experienced opera vocalist. Her “Ebben?,,,”, from Catalani’s La Wally, drew my notes, “sensational, powerful”. Ms. Pérez exudes flirtatious confidence, sophistication, and undaunted professionalism. But, it was her “Un bel di”, from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, so elegant and sincere, that brought the house to boisterous accolades. The renowned Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano, generated her own thundering entrance and subsequent ovations. Ms. Blythe, mentioned above as a previous Tucker Award Winner, performed “Aure, deh, per pietà”, from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, with sumptuous, resonant tonality. Yet, her showcased moment was her rendition of the “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen, which drew both the audience and maestro in. She used playful stylizing in her performances, including coy flirtations with the conductor. Maestro Luisotti loved the attention and added wit to the moment. The New York Choral Artists also joined Ms. Blythe to enhance this popular aria. The chorus also had its own spotlight in “Va, pensiero”, from Verdi’s Nabucco. The renowned melody, expertly performed by New York Choral Artists, was enchanting and spellbinding.

The chorus also joined Tamara Wilson, soprano, and Ekaterina Semenchuk, mezzo-soprano, for “Fu la sorte dell’armi…”, from Verdi’s highly dramatic Aida. The duet with chorus was stunning. Ms. Wilson had also performed the aria, “In questa reggia”, from Puccini’s Turandot, a mystical, shimmering solo, while Ms. Semenchuk had sung “Oh mio Fernando”, from Verdi’s La Favorita, with deep, cognac vocals. Tara Erraught, mezzo-soprano, and Rachel Willis-Sørensen, soprano, each performed solo arias, with Ms. Erraught singing “Nacqui all’affanno…”, from Rossini’s La Cenerentola, with mesmerizing coloratura patter, in rapid bel canto style. Likewise, Ms. Willis-Sørensen’s aria, “Czardas” from Die Fledermaus, introduced her rising star vocals. Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor, appeared in a sensational solo, “Rompo I Iacci” from Handel’s Flavio, showcasing his specialized talent in reaching the highest tonal registers, in countertenor fashion. There are few countertenors with such full-throated, glowing power, and Mr. Costanzo was a delight. Anthony Clark Evans, in tonal contrast, a vibrant baritone, stunningly sang “Si può, si può”, the Prelude from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

The finale of tonight’s Tucker Foundation Gala concert was most of the above ensemble, plus the New York Choral Artists, and one new vocalist, Matthew Curran, bass, performing, with the Met Opera Orchestra, “Tutto nel mundo è burla”, from Verdi’s Falstaff. This was truly a thrilling finale to a thrilling concert at Carnegie Hall. There were obvious opera aficionados in the audience who left the Hall in a very upbeat mood. The future of opera, nationally and internationally, is in good hands, based on the excellent philanthropic work of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, and based on the rising talents and energy of tonight’s artists, both seasoned and youthful. Kudos to tonight’s vocal artists, kudos to the Met Opera Orchestra members, kudos to New York Choral Artists, kudos to Maestro Luisotti, and kudos to the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at