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Subject: Opera Index Honors Stage Director Tito Capobianco & Presents Opera Recital of 2016 Award Winners
From: Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Judy Pantano <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:11:14 -0500

text/plain (135 lines)

Opera Index Honors Stage Director Tito Capobianco & Presents Opera Recital of 2016 
Award Winners

A review by Nino Pantano

On the evening of Sunday, January 15th, at the JW Marriott Essex House on Central Park 
South in New York City, Opera Index hosted a tribute to internationally acclaimed stage 
director Tito Capobianco and also presented an operatic recital of the 2016 Opera Index 
Award winners.

Jane Shaulis, a much loved mezzo from the Metropolitan Opera is the President of Opera 
Index and made the introductory remarks. She was happy to report that over $50,000 
was given in varying scholarships in 2016 and proudly introduced the awardees.

Sandra Hamaoui sang "Ah! Je veux vivre" from Romeo and Juliette. She and Gounod are 
perfect together. Her generous soprano flows freely and evenly from upper to lower 
register and was full of adolescent enthusiasm. Ms. Hamaoui's beguiling coloratura was 
symbolic of Juliette's awakening. The exuberance of her presentation and some powerful 
outbursts at the finale, made for a joyful Juliette with a newly minted inner core of love 
and strength.

Cody Quattlebaum used his seamless resonant bass-baritone in "Se vuol ballare" from 
Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. He brought with him a vibrant quality, penetrating sound and 
impish interpretation that evoked memories of the great basso s of the past. We need 
good bass-baritones today and Mr. Quattlebaum brings us hope aplenty!

Jakub Orlinski, countertenor will help fill the void left by Russell Oberlin, the pioneer 
countertenor who just passed away. Mr. Orlinski sang "Furibondo spira il vento" from 
Partenope by Handel. His adroit "handeling" (no pun) of the scales, roulades, ascents and 
descents of this roller coaster selection showed mastery. His clear diction and surprisingly 
effortless low notes were a marvel. Can Orlinski "Handel" it? The answer is-very well 

Andre Courville, bass-baritone entertained us with a rarity,"Air du tambour major" from 
Le Caid by Ambroise Thomas. This aria, full of pomp, strutting and soldierly pride, has 
audiences foot stomping to its rhythm. It's the "Over there" of its day and Mr. Courville 
sang it with resonance, power, relish, good humor and into the dining area where he 
serenaded a few ladies at table, including my wife Judy. Courville's fioritura and cadenzas 
rivaled the 1812 Overture in their contagious joy. 

Angela Vallone sang "Azael, Azael" from L'enfant Prodigue by Claude Debussy. Ms. 
Vallone, winner of the Arthur E. Walters Memorial Award evokes memories of the great 
Mary Garden, (1874-1967) a Scottish-American soprano who sang a very exotic repertory 
as well as the usual fare. Ms. Vallone possesses a truly beautiful soprano and can float a 
high note like an angel on a cloud. As the legendary soprano Licia Albanese always 
advised, to let each word sing. Ms. Vallone paints word pictures and with a slight 
inflection, can break your heart. This is a talent that will require careful nurturing so that 
the world can see and hear what we witnessed. She will shine and bring us the light we 
seek in both opera and song.

Sava Vemic, basso, has won the top awards from the Premier Lissner Charitable Fund 
Award and Opera Index. He sang "Il lacerato Spirito" from Verdi's Simone Boccanegra. 
Vemic recently made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the High Priest in Verdi's Nabucco. 
His singing of this magnificent aria plumbed the hallowed depths with noble phrasing, 
great emotion, caressing tone and a burnished heavenly "Prego Maria, per me." His 
declamatory singing at the beginning was riveting and his inspired singing throughout was 
exemplary. Tall, handsome and debonair in manner, truly Cesare Siepi reborn!

The splendid accompanist to the singers was the terrific and talented piano virtuoso 
Michael Fennelly.

Jane Shaulis returned to give the Distinguished Achievement Award to Tito Capobianco, 
who is acclaimed for his ingenious and versatile treatment of repertory classics, "from 
Baroque to Romantic, verismo and contemporary opera." Mr. Capbianco was born in 
Argentina and his years with New York City Opera (NYCO) included Donizetti's Three 
Queens with Beverly Sills, Lucia di Lammermoor, Giulio Cesare and Boito's Mefistofele. 
We shared a mutual friend in the late great NYCO basso Don Yule, my Brooklyn (Prospect 
Heights) neighbor as well.

Jane Shaulis spoke glowingly of Tito Capobianco's assistance to her as a novice at NYCO 
and warmly of their friendly and fruitful collaborations. Mr. Capobianco, gave a witty and 
gracious acceptance speech and said "listen, watch and learn," his advice to beginners 
and received a standing ovation.

We spoke with Tito Capobianco and his charming guest Barbara Sandonato who was a 
prima ballerina at New York City Ballet (NYCB) in the halcyon days of George Balanchine 
and who now heads the Barbara Sandonato School of Ballet in Philadelphia. I mentioned 
the legendary Italian lyric tenor Tito Schipa (Vivere) (1888-1965) who sang many Spanish 
songs and often visited Argentina. Mr. Capobianco said that his parents so admired the art 
of Tito Schipa that after seeing Schipa sing at a concert in Buenos Aires shortly before 
Capobianco's birth, they broke tradition and named him Tito instead of after his familial 
grandfather. Like Pope Francis, the Capobianco family originated in Italy then migrated to 
Argentina. I too, have family members in Buenos Aires.

It was wonderful to see Armenian-American Met soprano Lucine Amara, Lebanese 
legendary Met mezzo Rosalind Elias, the indomitable dramatic Met soprano Elinor Ross, 
Met legend and Kennedy Center awardee Martina Arroyo, Elaine Malbin, soprano at NYCO 
and NBC TV opera pioneer, the great Met Opera basso Eric Owens, a former Opera Index 
awardee, fresh from his triumph in L'Amour de loin at at the family table of Janet Stovin 
(Vice President of Opera Index), soprano Barbara Meister-Bender lent her glamorous 
presence (Career Bridges), along with Rafael Sanchez, handbag designer, patron 
presenter Dr. Robert Campbell and tenor troubadour Cesare Santeramo, author Luna 
Kaufman, Bill Ronayne, President of the Mario Lanza Foundation (located in Brooklyn) 
were in attendance as was Met tenor and television actor Anthony Laciura, a fellow 

At our table was our gracious host Stephen De Maio, President of the Gerda Lissner 
Foundation, patron presenter Karl Michaelis, Michael Fornabaio Vice President and 
Treasurer, Gloria Gari from the Giulio Gari Foundation, Maestro Eve Queler from Opera 
Orchestra of New York, Joyce Greenberg, competition assistant to several foundations and 
Met opera basso Sava Vemic, a Gerda Lissner awardee.

It  was such fun to spend some time with Opera Index Treasurer Murray Rosenthal and 
composer and Vice President Philip Hagemann. We greeted Joy B. Ferro, who is now the 
Artistic Director of the vocal program of her late husband Daniel on Madison Avenue. We 
introduced two gentlemen whose hobbies were clocks, (horologists) John Metcalfe from 
the Opera Index Board of Directors and Gary Dietrich who is the Metropolitan Opera 
Stage Manager and both were friends of NYCO bass Don Yule who was also a clock 
maven. Mrs. Dietrich is Opera Index judge Laura Alley and is on the staff of Mannes 
College. We also chatted with Mara Waldman, pianist musicologist, Doris Keeley, patron 
and presenter, Meche Kroop, patron and reviewer, opera manager Ken Benson, Edna 
Greenwich, Founder and Director of Opera Exposures with Dwight Owsley, Board member 
and the ebullient Cavaliere Edward Jackson, poet, who is the unofficial Mayor of Italian 

As we were leaving, as when we entered, it was great to to see Opera Index President 
Jane Shaulis and her husband Joseph Gasperec, who was a Stage Director and now 
serves as Executive Director of Opera Index.

We all went into the chill of the night with echoes of young and talented voices that 
warmed our hearts and will live on in memory! 

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