On May 23rd, 2019 I was privileged to attend an opera recital at the Shoemaker Salon on Central Park West in New York. The event featured Korean soprano Rosa Chang, Ecuadorian baritone Carlos Arcos, and Russian pianist Ivan Gusev.
Rosa Chang: Rossini, Liszt and Fauré
Ms. Chang introduced each program item before singing it. This was informative and at times entertaining, making for a lively evening.
Rosa Chang’s La Promessa was a treat. Gusev’s sparkling piano intertwined with her conversational phrases in a charming duet. The aria closed on a sustained octave leap, which Ms. Chang hit and held flawlessly.
Throughout the evening Ms. Chang showed fine control over every aspect of her performance: her voice, expressions and gestures.
Carlos Arcos: Tosti, Reynaldo Hahn
Mr. Arcos’s Tosti showcased his passionate delivery and magnificent voice. An Ecuadorian, he convinced me that he had become Italian for Tosti’s Non t’amo piu.
Carlos Arcos’s A Chloris opened with a harmonic progression on the piano that is reminiscent of Pachelbel’s Canon. Indeed after his performance, a member of the audience asked Arcos about possible influences.
Ivan Gusev: Rachmaninov, Paganini-Liszt
Rachmaninov’s Études Tableaux in A minor (“The Sea and the Seagulls”) is one of the composer’s crowning achievements.
Gusev’s performance was mesmerizing. I looked for a comparable performance on the Internet and found just one, by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
The work opens in a dream-like state. The right hand crosses the left to punctuate Rachmaninov’s reflective arpeggios with a slow bass motif..
This morphs into waves of excruciating collapse at 2:20, 2:50 and beyond. Then it transitions to a major key, only to slip back to the opening calm. These timings are with respect to Gusev’s 2018 Youtube video.
Gusev also played Liszt’s La Campanella, a demanding work that is as much fun to watch as it is to listen to.
Rigoletto, Don Pasquale, Camelot, La Traviata
After a short Intermission we heard three more excellent arias from Rosa Chang and one song from Carlos Arcos.
I don’t have room here to give a run-down on each item. However I would single out Mr. Arcos who, supported by pianist Gusev, gave a heartfelt rendition of If ever I would leave you, the show-stopping romantic ballad from Camelot.
Carlos Arcos sang Pampamapa by Carlos Guastavino. The piano accompaniment for this Argentinian song at times imitates the strumming of a guitar.
Rosa Chang sang Puccini’s O mio babbino caro, The aching beauty of this aria is so typical of Puccini. Ms. Chang’s refined vibrato and her perfect attack once again resulted in an exquisite performance.
Ivan Gusev closed the evening with a virtuoso performance of Chopin’s Minute Waltz. I loved how he played with pacing in order to magnify the accelerando of the waltz.
In these troubled times it is reassuring to see such diverse musicians collaborate to present an evening of great music.
Rosa Chang stood out as as a superlative soprano who could perform for the most discriminating audience.
Carlos Arcos pulled off a win despite joining the program at short notice.
And pianist Ivan Gusev played tirelessly through the entire evening, both as an accompanist and as a soloist.