The Manhattan School of Music Celebrates Lunar New Year
Midge Woolsey: Hello, I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman. Tonight, performances by the young vocalists of Manhattan School of Music. Highlights from a program recently presented in the green space in celebration of the Lunar New Year on this edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
For 45 remarkable years, the Young Artists Showcase has introduced you to young musicians 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 provided young singers with encouragement and 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 a group of young vocalists from Manhattan School of Music, founded as a community music school in 1918. Today, MSM is recognized for its more than 1000 talented undergraduate and graduate students who come from more than 50 countries and nearly all 50 states to study with its world-renowned artist-teacher faculty. Myra Huang is a member of MSM's collaborative piano faculty and the music director of the Metropolitan Opera’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Myra chose the group of young artists you're going to hear tonight and shaped the program with one of MSM's most distinguished graduates, now a member of the school's board of trustees and a one-time Gerda listener Foundation Prize, award-winning countertenor, actor and producer extraordinaire, Anthony Roth Costanzo. Anthony is with me today to talk about the event. Welcome, Anthony.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Midge, it's great to be with you.
Midge Woolsey: Well, tell us about the event and where the idea was born.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Well, you know, I was thrilled to reunite with Myra Huang, who I had first met when I did Placido Domingo's Opera Rally Competition. She was one of the pianists. I always say she's the reason I won. Myra told me that Carlene Graham had reached out and said that the Gerda Lissner Foundation was sponsoring an event at WQXR.
And so, we began to talk about the program and Myra and I realized that it would be on the weekend of the Lunar New Year. So, we took that as inspiration for our theme, and we were excited to bring three organizations together, WQXR, MSM, and the Gerda Lissner Foundation and hear these young singers because in my mind, this is what the future of opera is going to sound like.
This group of singers, you know, they're all students or alums from MSM, and Myra and I are both alums, so there was a really a feeling of family. And the theme of the whole program is based on home. And that's because, you know, they say the largest migration on earth happens on the Lunar New Year because of the number of people who go home to see their family.
So, the rep that we chose represented eight different languages and all of these songs are sort of about where do I belong and this, this kind of longing for home and loving home, or the struggle with not having a home.
Midge Woolsey: So, tell us a little bit about the first three singers that we're going to hear on the program.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: These are all such exciting singers. First up, we have Chinese Bass-Baritone Le Bu, who's an MSM alum, and in his first year in the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, he's the 2022 winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition. And he's going to sing a piece in his native language: Homesickness.
Midge Woolsey: Very appropriate, correct?
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Indeed. Then we have soprano Eva Rae Martinez in her fourth year at MSM, and she'll spend the summer as a vocal fellow at the Tanglewood Music Festival and she's going to sing Franz Liszt's setting of Goethe's “Kennst du das Land” (Do you know the land?). Then we have 22-year-old baritone Henry Griffin. Now he's currently pursuing his Bachelor of Music degree at MSM, and he spent two summers singing with the Chautauqua Opera Company, but he's really a triple threat.
He's also a great pianist and a composer, and so he's going to sing his own composition based on a poem by his younger brother called Warm Water Flows.
Midge Woolsey: Pianist, composer, and singer.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: You got it.
Midge Woolsey: There, you got the triple threat.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: So, to tie this program all together, I invited my friend and the brilliant Cambodian American poet and librettist Sokunthary Svay to sort of set the stage to thread all of the musical pieces together with her poetry. And so, she's going to lead us on this journey.
Sokunthary Svay: Hi, everyone. Happy New Year. This is really incredible. Um, what a magical collaboration this has been. Um, first many thanks to Anthony Roth Costanzo for choosing to feature my work and for uplifting the Cambodian diaspora's voice through my inclusion, especially in such uncertain times and and sometimes frightening times for folks who look like me. And thank you all for being here and witnessing what is still a rare Asian American narrative. And as we vocalize and transmit these works cross from the stage to you and the audience, I like to think that all the works tonight function as letters in the air to you.
Uh, just a quick note about my work. Uh, my themes are around Cambodia, home, homeland, Buddhism, lineage, heritage, sound, language, survival, and music. The word Khmai is a term used to describe the people and language of Cambodia. I use the terms, uh, Khmai and Cambodian interchangeably.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: It was really a thrill to hear her read her own work, to hear it in her voice, and to see how what she's written kind of functions as letters in the air introducing all of this music.
Poem - Sokunthary Svay: Dear Grandmother,
MUSIC - Tzu: Homesickness
MUSIC - Liszt: Mignons Lied, S.275, “Kennst du das Land”
Henry Griffin: Homeland. When we think of home, we might think of a city or a region or a country. To me, home also means the home that we all share: this earth. So, when my sibling, who was 13 years old at the time, Parker Griffin, uh, wrote a poem called Warm Water Flows. I knew that it had to be set to music, so I went about composing a song cycle, and this is the third installation in that song cycle.
And the poem speaks very directly about our need. For saving our environment and that we are the last hope, uh, for this world. The pools are melting, our climate is changing, and it is up to us to save our environment. We still have time.
MUSIC - Griffin: Warm Water Flows
Midge Woolsey: Three very talented young artists from Manhattan School of Music. First Chinese bass-baritone Le Bu with Homesickness. Soprano Eva Rae Martinez sang of unbearable, loneliness, and longing in Franz Liszt’s setting of Goethe. And baritone. Henry Griffin sang one of his own compositions, warm water flows. The young Korean pianist, Ye In Kwak, currently working on a degree in collaborative piano at MSM, accompanied all three singers. Anthony, tell us about the next singer. Really fabulous performance, right?
Anthony Roth Costanzo: This is such an exciting talent. You're going to be hearing this name a lot. The South Korean baritone, Yeong Taek Yang, working on his master's degree at MSM and studying with James Morris is going to sing "Nemico della patria" from Act three of Andrea Chénier.
Midge Woolsey: And we begin with a poem by
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Sokunthary Svay.
Poem - Sokunthary Svay: Baptism
MUSIC - Giordano: Andrea Chénier, “Nemico della patria”
Midge Woolsey: Yeong Taek Yang as the cynical Carlo Gérard in Giordano's, Andrea Chenier with Pianist Ye In Kwak. It's time for a quick break now and then I'll be back with Anthony Roth Costanzo, who will share a performance of his own and more performances by the talented young vocalists of Manhattan School of Music here on the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.
Welcome back. I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman. Today we're enjoying highlights from a program sponsored by the Gerda Lissner Foundation and presented by Manhattan School of Music in The Greene Space. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, Anthony Roth Costanzo curated and produced the project with Myra Huang. Anthony, it's so great to have you here today to tell us a little bit about some of these young singers. We have, uh, one new singer to present and two returnees, correct?
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Exactly. First up, we have Chinese soprano Yining Xie in her third year at MSM. She was a member of Houston Grand Opera's, prestigious young artist focal academy in 2022, and she's going to sing in her native language "I don't know where the wind is blowing" with the pianist Marco Rizzello. Then I'm going to sing something with Myra, which is a great reunion and we're doing, uh, an aria from an opera I premiered actually Bel Canto by Jimmy Lopez, um, based on the book by Ann Patchett.
Midge Woolsey: Interesting.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: And this one is in Spanish Entre los Arboles about a young terrorist who's talking about his childhood learning how to sing in the jungle.
Midge Woolsey: Fascinating.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Then we have baritone, Yeong Taek Yang returning with pianist Ye In Kwak to sing in his native language, "such a clear current." Then bass-baritone, Le Bu returns to sing "O patria, o cara patria" from I Vespri Siciliani with pianist, Marco Rizzello. Of course, poetry is interspersed through all of these by the Cambodian American poet, Sokunthary Svay.
MUSIC - Zang: I Don’t Know Where the Wind is Blowing
Poem - Sokunthary Svay: Jungle Crossing
Poem - Sokunthary Svay: The love you, Mother tongue.
MUSIC - López: Entre los árboles
MUSIC - Min-Jung: Such a Clear Current
Midge Woolsey: Four performances presented live in The Greene Space. Last month in celebration of the Lunar New Year, interspersed with poetry by Cambodian American author, Sokunthary Svay. We heard Chinese soprano Yining Xie in her native language, "I don't know where the wind is blowing” with pianist Marco Rizzello. My guest today, counter tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo then took the stage with pianist Myra Huang to perform Entre los Arboles by Jimmy Lopez. Baritone Yeong Taek Yang returned to the stage with pianist Ye In Kwak to sing "Such a Clear Current." And bass-bariton Le Bu concluded the set with pianist Marco Rizzello singing of the joy of returning to his native land in “O patria, o cara patria... o tu palermo" from I Vespri Siciliani.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Then the evening ended with a final performance by the soprano, Eva Rae Martinez, and pianist Marco Rizzello. They did Melodia Sentimental by Villa-Lobos.
MUSIC - Villa-Lobos: Melodia Sentimental
Midge Woolsey: Come look at the moon that shines in the dark night. Feel my love and dream. Soprano Eva Rae Martinez and pianist Marco Rizzello. And a sentimental melody by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos bringing Manhattan School of Music's lovely evening of song and poetry in celebration of the Lunar New Year to a close.
Anthony, it has been so great to have you participate in this event. What's next for Anthony Roth Costanzo? What's in the pipeline?
Anthony Roth Costanzo: Well, I'm thrilled to be returning to the role of Akhnaten and at the English National Opera, and then also getting to do some Handel Amadigi di Gaula with the Philharmonia Baroque. I then go on to the Spoleto Festival where I'll be reprising my show with Justin Vivian Bond, the incredible cabaret performer, and then on to Glimmerglass where I'm the artist in residence.
Midge Woolsey: Incredible. Wow. It sounds very exciting. And at the same time, quite exhausting.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: You know, I say there's eight hours to sleep every day, and then you got 16 hours to do other stuff. So that's, that's my philosophy.
Midge Woolsey: Well, it's been great having you here, and we hope you'll come back soon.
Anthony Roth Costanzo: I hope so too. Thank you for letting me join you.
Midge Woolsey: Thank you. The McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.
Terry McGraw: Once again, it's always good to be with the Young Artists Showcase on WQXR. I have to tell you, I get awed all the time by the type of talent that we attract to the showcase, and they're from all over the world: China, Indonesia, Denmark, I mean, you name it. It really is fun and exciting to see such wonderful young talent and to be able to hear them and to have them demonstrate their capabilities.
Midge Woolsey: Thank you, Terry. Many thanks to MSM President James Gandre, Susan Madden, Vice President for Advancement, and her terrific team.And Dr. Carleen Graham, Dean of Vocal Arts, and our thanks to you for listening. If you'd like to watch this entire performance, you can find it online at www.msmnyc.edu/livestream. 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, the first in a series of three Greene Space events featuring classical music's next generation of vocal artists. Later this spring, we will shine the spotlight on the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and The Juilliard School. Our WQXR program producers are Eileen Delahunty, Max Fine, Laura Boyman and Maya Cassady.
And we're very grateful to the incredible team at The Greene Space for making this program possible. And our generous Young Artists Showcase series underwriter is the Harold W McGraw Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Midge Woolsey sitting in for Bob Sherman.
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