Midge Woolsey: Hello, I'm Midge Woolsey. Tonight highlights from a program recently presented in the Greene Space, featuring Grammy Award winning soprano Latonia Moore with several very talented young singers and alums from Latonia's alma mater, the Academy of Vocal Arts, here on the Young Artists Showcase.
For 45 remarkable years, the Young Artists Showcase has been introducing you to emerging artists of all kinds. Thanks to generous underwriting support from the Harold w McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. For many of those years, the Gerda Lissner Foundation has been providing young vocalists with financial support to help them excel in the ever challenging world of opera.
Tonight's program brings both organizations together to shine the spotlight on singers from Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts, also known as AVA. Since 1934, gifted singers have come to AVA from around the world to train with a faculty of individuals who are among the finest in their fields.
Ava's four year program of voice, acting, stage combat, repertoire, languages, and other related subjects is unique, not only because it is tuition-free and focuses solely on operatic training, but also because of the highly professional, fully staged operas it regularly produces.
Joining me now is AVA's Vice President and General Manager who was the mastermind behind this program, Scott Guzielek. Welcome, Scott.
Scott Guzielek: Thank you, Midge. It's so great to be with you today.
Midge Woolsey: Tell us a little bit about the idea behind today's program.
Scott Guzielek: When the Gerda Lissner Foundation approached us with this, I immediately went to Danielle Orlando, one of our master coaches, and we started brainstorming on what we could do, and we thought that the program should really focus on these singers strengths and and provide a variety of operatic repertoire for the listeners.
So Danielle, one of our master coaches, she was on the piano the entire evening accompanying these wonderful singers.
Midge Woolsey: And I can testify because I was there. She did a fabulous job. Now, one of AVA's distinguished graduates was a part of this event in the Greene Space, right?
Scott Guzielek: Absolutely. And we were so happy to welcome two time Grammy Award winning soprano and AVA alumna Latonia Moore.
Midge Woolsey: So let's go to Latonia in the Greene Space. She began the program with Salome’s Act one aria from Massenet’s Herodiade, "Il est doux, il est bon."
MUSIC - Massenet: “Il est doux, il est bon” from Herodiade
Latonia Moore: What a way to start. Huh? So, as you know, I'm Latonia Moore, an alumna from the Academy of Vocal Arts. And I graduated in the year 2004. And the reason I chose to go to AVA is um, I was going to school in Texas and I had a teacher there that I loved so much, cause I always think that's the most crucial part is having the right teacher.
So once my teacher died and I was in Texas, I went and searched for someone new and I found my teacher, Bill Schuman at the Academy of Vocal Arts. And I just moved ship. I took everything I had, I had like 400 and something dollars and moved from Texas up to Philadelphia, uh, to study with him privately initially, and then went to AVA. And when I was there, the first year in Philadelphia, I had a choice because I had done the Metropolitan Opera, uh, competition and won and also gotten into AVA, so I was offered the Met Young Artist Studio and AVA.
The reason why I chose the Academy of Vocal Arts is because it's like a little opera company. It prepares you seriously for the real business. By the time I left there, I'd done seven roles. I had studied six roles. I had learned oratorios, all kinds of stuff, and most of us were working out in the business before we even left school.
It's that fantastic a program and it's one that I will always continue to invest in because it is literally, and I'm not being partial, the best training in the world. So I'm so glad y'all are here to support us. Because I think it's one of the best institutions ever, obviously, and the singing you're about to hear tonight is a testament to how fantastic a program it really, really is. So I hope you enjoy my beautiful colleagues, these beautiful, beautiful singers tonight, and thank you so much. So enjoy yourselves.
Midge Woolsey: Quite a performance of Salome’s "Il est doux, il est bon" from Herodiade by Massenet. And quite an endorsement for AVA from Latonia Moore. We'll hear more from her later in the program, but next we lighten things up with music from one of AVA's recent productions, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.
Scott Guzielek: This was a fun production this past year, and these two current resident artists were featured in that production. Soprano Ethel Trujillo as Norina and baritone Titus Muzi as Dr. Malatesta. Both of these young artists are beginning to find their way in the world. Titus has appeared as a young artist with Opera Theater of St. Louis, Houston Grand Opera, and the Music Academy of the West.
Midge Woolsey: All great credits, I should say.
Scott Guzielek: Amazing.
Midge Woolsey: Yeah.
Scott Guzielek: And Ethel made her debut as Violetta in La Traviata at the Opera Festival in San Luis, Mexico in 2019. And this summer she heads over to Glimmerglass to cover Juliette.
Midge Woolsey: Okay, so we're in act one. The young widow Norina explains that she too knows that when it comes to catching a man, timing and style are everything. And when Dr. Malatesta arrives, they devise a plan to deceive the poor old Don Pasquale.
MUSIC - Donizetti: “Aria de Norina” and “Pronta son, purch'io non manchi” from Don Pasquale
Midge Woolsey: Soprano Ethel Trujillo as the youthful widow Norina in cahoots with baritone Titus Musi as Dr. Malatesta in Donizetti’s comic opera Don Pasquale. Scott, mezzo soprano, Alice Chung is next, and she's been getting a lot of attention recently. Tell us about Alice.
Scott Guzielek: We're so happy with all that's happening for Alice. She's a very recent graduate of AVA. Last year she was a winner of the Gerda Lissner Lieder and Song Competition, and in 2022 was a District/Regional Winner in the Metropolitan Opera's Laffont Competition. Tonight, her first selection is from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, "Voce di donna."
MUSIC - Ponchielli: “Voce di donna” from La Gioconda
Midge Woolsey: Mezzo soprano Alice Chung in Act one of Ponchielli’s La Gioconda. Last year, the Gerda Lissner Foundation introduced a new awards division for Operetta and Zarzuela. Mexican Soprano Ethel Trujillo was awarded first prize for her performance of the aria you're about to hear. "Me llaman la primorosa" from Giménez and Nieto’s adaptation of The Barber of Seville is one of zarzuella's most famous arias with a new libretto and copious references to the original opera by Rossini, the story revolves around Elena, who wants to be an opera singer. In this flirtatious aria, Elena reveals her true desire. She says, “They call me La Primorosa, the girl of loves because I love it when I sing and I fall in love when I cry."
MUSIC - Gimenez and Nieto: “Me llaman la primorosa” from El barbero de Seville
Midge Woolsey: Ethel Trujillo as Elena, La Primorosa, in Gimenez and Nieto’s delightful Zarzuela adaptation of The Barber of Seville. It's time for a quick break now. Then Scott Guzielek and I will be back with more music from the talented vocalists of the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia here on the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
Midge Woolsey: Welcome back. I'm Midge Woolsey. Today we're enjoying highlights from a program sponsored by the Gerda Lissner Foundation and presented last spring in the Greene Space here at WQXR by the Academy of Vocal Arts. The program was curated by master coach Danielle Orlando, who was at the piano throughout the entire evening, and the Vice President and General Manager at AVA, Scott Guzielek, who is with me right now. Scott, the Flower duet from Madama Butterfly has very special meaning for both of our next performers, correct?
Scott Guzielek: It certainly does. Each of them love the roles that they sing, and when we were speaking with Latonia about this program, she said, I absolutely must sing with Alice. She's a singer that I just adore and I have to sing with her on this program.
Midge Woolsey: Certainly a very special opportunity, especially for Alice. The Flower Duet from Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
MUSIC - Puccini: “Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio” (The Flower Duet) from Madama Butterfly
Midge Woolsey: Soprano Latonia Moore and mezzo soprano Alice Chung for the very first time together, The Flower Duet from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Scott, even though the primary focus at AVA is on the operatic repertoire, song literature does play an important role in the singer's training as it should, I think.
Scott Guzielek: It does, and we often program recitals for them throughout the course of their time at AVA. We feel that it allows a different type of exploration of expression and artistry, and we see that any active career these days involves a recital career.
Midge Woolsey: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Scott Guzielek: So here's a great example of that coming up with Titus singing The Nightingale by American folk composer Clifford Shaw.
MUSIC - Shaw: The Nightingale
Scott Guzielek: Baritone Titus Muzi with The Nightingale from Three Mountain Ballads by Clifford Shaw. Alice Chung sang two songs that evening. She introduced them from the stage.
Alice Chung: Good evening. Once again, I am mezzo soprano Alice Chung, and I'm so delighted to be here in this space and share this incredible music with you tonight.
So these next two songs are worlds apart. Uh, and despite their differences in language, in culture, in people, they do connect on one principle together: perseverance. I sometimes believe that we only think about the vulnerability in waiting, but I see waiting to be a very powerful and active position to be in, sometimes in silence and sometimes not. Here are Waitin’ by Bolcom and Geuliun Geumgangsan, Longing for GeumGang Mountain. Thank you.
MUSIC - Bolcom: Waitin’
Choi: Longing for GeumGang Mountain
Midge Woolsey: Mezzo soprano Alice Chung with Waitin’ from William Bolcom and Arnold Weinstein’s Cabaret Songs, followed by a soaring Korean ballad about her ancestral background. All of the performances included on this evening's edition of the Young Artists Showcase took place in the Greene Space here at WQXR. You can find out more about upcoming events in the Greene Space at the greenespace.org. And important to note, that's Greene with an E at the end.
Scott Guzielek, thank you so much for coming in all the way from Philadelphia to be with us tonight. And thank you for sharing your talented young artists with the WQXR listeners.
Scott Guzielek: It's been my pleasure, Midge, and thank you so much. And thank you to the Gerda Lissner Foundation for all that you do to support young singers. And I truly hope that today's broadcast entices the listeners to come the other way on the train down to Philadelphia
Midge Woolsey: Good idea
Scott Guzielek: for one of our performances next season.
Midge Woolsey: Absolutely. I hope to be there myself. To bring AVA's evening in the Greene Space to a dramatic close.
Latonia Moore returned to the stage as Cio-Cio San. Consumed with despair and preparing to die, she sings a heartfelt goodbye to her son.
MUSIC - Puccini: “Tu, tu piccolo iddio” from Madama Butterfly
Midge Woolsey: Latonia Moore with music from Puccini's Madama Butterfly, rounding out our program of highlights from the Academy of Vocal Arts presentation in the Greene Space last spring on this week's edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase. The Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.
Terry McGraw: Good evening everyone. It's great to be with you and it's always great being with the Young Artists Showcase and to hear these really wonderful and inspiring musicians as they continue to share their incredible gifts with us every week. I can't wait to hear the fabulous talent coming up on the Showcase. And I am so pleased to be able to support the series all through its well over four decades on WQXR and there's so much more to come.
Midge Woolsey: Thank you, Terry. Special thanks to Michael Fornabaio and the Board of the Gerda Lissner Foundation and Karl Michaelis of the Lissner Charitable Trust for sponsoring the live event in the Greene Space.
And to AVA's Vice President and General Manager Scott Guzielek and AVA's Master Coach and pianist featured throughout this program, Danielle Orlando, and our thanks to you for listening. If you'd like to watch this entire performance, you can find it online at wqxr.org. Our WQXR program producers are Laura Boyman and Max Fine.
Special thanks to the team in the Greene Space for their production wizardry. And very special thanks as always to our generous Young Artists Showcase series underwriter, the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Midge Woolsey. Goodnight.
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