October 10, 2010



Tony Villecco

                Tenor Raul Melo offered an extremely attractive and diverse program of songs and arias

at Binghamton University’s Anderson Center October 9th.  As part of the annual Homecoming/Alumni

weekend at BU, Melo, a former TCO Resident Artist who received training here,  has gone on

to have an international career on the worlds operatic stages.

                Melo has a big voice, make no mistake. His tone is burnished and dark often sounding more like

a baritone. But when the music propels him into his upper register, it is a silvery, clean and lovely top,

though not as rich as the middle voice. There were a few moments where the voice had a sense of

tightness or holding, but this dissipated as the evening proceeded. His timbre is nonetheless, unique.

                Opening with two Scarlatti songs he then offered ‘Air de Faust’ from ‘La damnation de Faust’ by

Hector Berlioz. An incredibly rich and seductive aria, Melo took full advantage of the composer’s intent

to display both passion and introspection.  It made one wish that this underperformed opera could

make its way back into the regular repertoire of regional houses more often. Then again, how many

tenors do we have today who can sing this demanding music?

                Clearly, one of the most memorable set of songs was the ‘Petrarch Sonnets’ by Franz Liszt.

One may think of Liszt as composer for piano only but he has written an impressive canon of vocal

literature.  Melo had ample opportunity to ply his vocal and interpretive skills with these rich, melodious

and oftentimes, dramatic musical lines.  Occasionally Melo’s top seemed ‘covered’ which hindered the

tenor’s vocal freedom. This was, I should point out, only on occasion and did not take away from the

overall marvelous singing of these songs.

One must note his most excellent accompanist, Michael  Recchiuti. Clearly Liszt wrote these

with not only the voice in mind and they were as much a showpiece for the pianist. Recchiuti

was technically phenomenal. Audiences sometimes are oblivious to the work and skill it takes to have

this good of a vocal accompanist; one who has to not only anticipate the singer’s every phrase, but to

practically breathe with them as well. Melo has found an amazing partner.

                Gisela Hernandez was a Twentieth Century composer of whom I was not familiar. That changed

last night. While there belies the notion that ‘modern’ music is often dissonant or monotonous, (sorry

everyone,  but I personally think of Philip Glass), Hernandez offered melodious and lively songs, instantly

likable.  Here, Melo was much more exposed vocally but these pieces were a showcase for his upper

register. In addition, she has written some titillating arpeggios for the pianist who played them with a


                Melo closed the program with four songs by Joaquin Turina (delightful I may add) and of course,

two of the meatier Verdi arias which were probably what the audience had been waiting for. Mr. Melo

is indeed a talented and moving artist. The one frustrating thing was such a lack of attendance. Perhaps

due to other commitments or lack of publicity, the concert theater was embarrassingly  empty. For such

a talent one would have hoped for a larger turnout, though they were extremely generous in

their admiration for this wonderful concert.


Young Pianist Dazzles by Tony Villecco

December 7, 2009

Anastasia Rizikov, a ten-year old Canadian born pianist, raised more than one pair of eyebrows yesterday at her second appearance in Binghamton. Presented by the organization, “Classical Pianists of the Future’, this phenomena of nature left her audience dazzled. Child prodigy’s  are always exciting to hear and Ms. Rizikov delivered the goods.

Opening with J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto in F Major, one was struck immediately with her total commitment and impeccable technical skills for one so young. Even more intriguing was her ability to evoke such emotion from such varied pieces, demonstrating a complete understanding of her repertoire.

Franz Liszt’s Concert Etude No. 2 “Gnomenreigen”, was a tour de force. Sprightly playing over the keys, this delightful and not commonly played piece left the audience frenzied.  The ‘Dance of the Gnomes’ truly was magical playing; her skill at fast passage work truly wonderful. More impressive yet, she insists all of her playing be memorized.

Following this, three evocative and instantly recognizable  stylistic pieces by George Gershwin were presented. Three Preludes; No. 1 in B flat Major, No. 2 in C sharp Minor and No. 3 in E flat Minor transported the listener to that wonderful era when George and Ira Gershwin practically wrote the American songbook. Each so different but so identifiable to Gershwin’s writing, were done with marvelous feeling and interpretation. For one so young, this is a true accomplishment.

Closing her first half was the very rarely heard composer, Pylyp Iosypovych Bryl. His ‘Concert Fantasia on Ukranian Melodies ‘ is a kaleidoscope of color. Extremely difficult playing with countless arpeggios and spot on passage work would have left no doubt as to the very bright future of Anastasia Rizikov.

My regret is that sadly, due to another committment, I had to miss her second half which was the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21 by Chopin. Let it suffice to say that this talent is rare. Trained by both her mother and grandmother at a young age (I know, how much younger can you get!), she currently studies with Maia Spis at the Nadia Music School in Toronto. The lovely Phelps Mansion Ballroom made a delightful venue although the seating was more confined than the Tri-Cities Opera Center where this group usually performs. A magical afternoon by a young lady who will no doubt, achieve world acclaim on all the greatest stages.

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November 9, 2009

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