Miami Summer Music Festival triumphs at New World Center

Following the success of the Miami Summer Music Festival’s adorable production of Hansel and Gretel last weekend (and we mean adorable – see our previous post about the instrument petting-zoo), we decided to check out the festival’s concert at the New World Center this past Saturday, July 25th. The New World Gala concert offers a “best of,” from the festival, showcasing singers from the Opera Institute and competition winners from the Composition, Piano, and Conducting Institutes respectively, and closing with a major orchestral work.

‘Tour de Force’ would be a more apt descriptor for the concert than ‘gala.’ Under the baton of its founder and artistic director, Maestro Michael Rossi, the evening opened with a set of zarzuela, or Spanish operetta pieces, which resonated with the audience, many of whom could be heard humming along to familiar melodies. Most notable of these was a spirited rendition of the old standard “Granada,” by Lara, shared between three tenors in a duel for the most show-stopping high notes (Jose Mangelós won this reviewer’s vote, charming the audience with a brilliance in his timbre and disarming charisma).

The iconic first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor (Op. 16) was so elegantly executed by 18 year-old Isabella Ma that the audience seemed compelled to erupt into applause afterward, breaking traditional conventions to hold ovation for after the entire work. Standouts from the opera scenes were Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Gour as a richly voiced Rosina with lightning accuracy in her coloratura, and baritone Anthony Potts for his comedic timing as Figaro in the trio, “Ah! Quel colpo inaspettato… Zitti, zitti, piano, piano,” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Soprano Allison Lonstein also made an impression as the tragically lovely Mimi in “Donde lieta usci,” and the subsequent quartet from La Boheme, her dark tone ever present and plaintive over the doubling of Puccini’s lush orchestration. Here Rossi led the orchestra with skillful navigation of the work’s wide dynamic range, demonstrating clear deference for the stylistic nuance of the Italian composer.

The MSMF orchestra is comprised of students, pre-professionals, and emerging artists from over 20 different countries. Their reading of Stravinsky’s enormous instigation Rite of Spring, however, was above and beyond for a young orchestra. One would think the most compelling feature of the Miami Summer Music Festival is that it provides opportunities for young musicians to cut their teeth in the professional world – but rather, the Festival’s true gift is the energy in the music it provides its community. Young performers commit to their craft with an enthusiasm rarely exhibited by professional orchestras, and Stravinsky’s ballet was no exception. The hushed introduction of the opening act still simmered in anticipation of the explosive Augurs of Spring to follow, where the percussion ensemble stole the show, following Rossi’s lead with precision and flourish. The dramatic second act, the Sacrifice, reprised their exuberance in full cacophony. Maestro Rossi shaped the reading in an enormous arc, never retreating from the rise in intensity in its most cathartic moments.

The takeaway from the concert is clear; the Miami Summer Festival is carving an important place for itself in South Florida’s classical scene. Set in the off-season, the Festival provides musical enrichment and accessibility the city has been thirsting for, produced by exceptional performers at affordable prices. They will close their 2015 season with two fully staged operas set to premiere this week, the whimsical fairy tale Cendrillon by Massenet (Jul. 30, Aug. 1), and Mozart’s titillating Don Giovanni (Jul. 31, Aug. 2). Both productions will be held at Barry University’s Broad Auditorium. Tickets range from $15-20 and feature full orchestra.

More information and tickets can be found at www.miamisummermusicfestival.com .
Cendrillon (Massenet)
Thurs., Jul. 30 – 7:30 pm
Sat., Aug. 1 – 7:30 pm

Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Fri., Jul. 31 – 7:30 pm
Sun., Aug. 2 – 2:00 pm

The Shepard & Ruth K. Broad Performing Arts Center
Barry University
11300 Northeast 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33161

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