Music Triumphs over Nature at Trinity-On-Main
Opera review by Lawrence James Kellum | Entertainment Correspondent / November 11, 2011

On Nov.4, Offenbach’s final, greatest, and most serious opera ‘TALES OF HOFFMANN’ miraculously came to fruition at Trinity-on-Main after a devastating week of October snow and subsequent power failures and cast changes that plagued rehearsal schedules for this opening production from the Conn. Lyric Opera, now beginning its eighth season of bringing opera to New Britain and surrounding cities. But, as they say in the theater business, a disastrous rehearsal week means a spectacular opening night, and this was exactly the case on Nov. 4.
‘HOFFMANN” is a bizarre, but gorgeous opera that revolves around the tales told by the titular character as he relives three tragic romances in his unhappy life. Offenbach (best known for his ‘Can-Can” used in Shop-Rite commercials) never lived to see the success of this work, and thus, there are several versions of the piece circulating throughout today’s opera world. Regardless of how it is presented, it requires a large cast and an opera company of stature to pull it off.
This was a performance that can be labeled in the opera industry as an evening of deluxe casting. Deluxe casting can be defined as when established singers who are used to, and fully capable of, singing much longer and far more demanding roles appear onstage in shorter, less taxing parts that don’t even tap half of their potential resources. Such was the case with three out of the five principals in this production. Jurate Svedaite (double duty as the prostitute Giulietta and the dying singer Antonia) is a great Tosca; Galina Ivannikova (the trouser role of Nicklausse) the newest Amneris in “Aida” on the international circuit; and Sarah Asmar (the doll Olympia with her own added high Fs when only high Es are called for) is an up-and-coming Lucia di Lammermoor. Patrons left the house wishing they could have heard so much more from all three.
That said, the evening ultimately still belonged to Michael Wade Lee in the title role. Looking and acting the part of the tormented poet to perfection, he poured out so much honey, cream and satin into the theater that this should, and could, be one of his greatest accomplishments to date, and end up becoming a signature role for this rising tenor star. Newsworthy headlines, however, were made when Jason Switzer flew in on a four day notice to replace an exiting bass-baritone as the multiple villains who ruin Hoffmann’s three romances in each scene. He may not have looked Satanic or ugly enough, but his huge, black, major league voice and tall, imposing presence earned his a glorious ovation at the final curtain. More remarkable, he hadn’t sung this opera in seven years and rose to the challenge like a trouper.
As is always the case with CLO productions, the orchestra of choice was the esteemed Conn. Virtuosi Chamber, conducted by Adrian Sylveen. To quote a Trinity employee, Sylveen goes into such a “zone” when he conducts, so vigorously and spiritually immersed in his craft is he that, occasionally, his forces will drown out the singers, but with musicianship of this caliber, this reporter says let ‘er rip! Another feather in the CLO’s cap is its recent collaboration with the Mystic Ballet, the final step in making an opera company complete.
For more information and tickets to future opera productions at Trinity, or the wonderful holiday concerts planned by the Virtuosi Orchestra, please visit, or call 860-229-2072.

10/4/2011 – Re: The New Beginning – Concert – Welte Hall, CCSU New Britain
Dear Maestro Sylveen:
My being from Dutchess County in the state of New York I’d never heard of the New Britain Symphony. Of course, THAT was before the EXCEPTIONAL performance I thoroughly enjoyed last Sunday afternoon.
I attended this performance in the company of Connecticut friends, loyal NBS supporters. I attended this performance in the company of Connecticut friends, loyal NBS supporters. I was amazed by the range of the selectivity of your program, the skill and musicality of the NBS musicians, and the control and ‘presence’ of their conductor.
For a small orchestra, the sound was surprisingly LARGE. The musicians’ intonation was incredible, an unique mastery by some of the musicians who appeared to be not much older than High School age. What an amazing ensemble sound.
I was impressed by the fact that your orchestra has a SOUND (like the BSO has a sound), a darned good one.
The lovely Brunilda Myftaraj recalled to my mind the brilliant violinist, Henryk Szeryng, who I enjoyed while a student at Yale School of Music. Ms. Myftaraj’s delicate, controlled sound, near-perfect intonation, and flawless facility are specifically what recalled Maestro Szeryng to me (from the mid-sixties). She is a consummate performer.
In my opinion, Ms. Myftaraj is as good – or better than – any of the major league violinists performing today. I live in the region of the Hudson Valley Symphony and I would like to share her name with this organization (to be considered for inclusion on future programs during upcoming seasons).
My intent is to periodically donate to the New Britain Symphony. I couldn’t think of a more worthwhile (or deserving) recipient. I was also moved by the powerful response of your audience to the soloist AND the orchestra. Hopefully, the next concert(s) won’t coincide with other simultaneous events that tend to eat up a portion of your audience.
Wishing you much success in all your endeavors,

10/3/2011 – Re: The New Beginning – Concert – Welte Hall, CCSU New Britain
The performance yesterday was spectacular.  We were awestruck by Brunilda’s brilliant solo on the violin concerto, and the magnificent Sibelius literally took our breaths away.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for making sure that we will have performances of beautiful music here in CT for a long,long time. Whether it be chamber music, symphony, or opera, we’ll intend to be there as often as possible.
Your devoted fans.

Sunday, October 2, 2011 10:58 PM EDT
Title: Symphony, Virtuosi make beautiful music together

By Liz Newberg
Staff Writer – New Britain Herald
With shouts of “bravo” and a standing ovation, the New Britain Symphony made quite a comeback after nearly having to close its doors for good last year.
In collaboration with The Connecticut Virtuosi Orchestra, their inaugural concert Sunday brought Welte Hall to life with sounds from Shore to Sibelius.
Special guest violin soloist Brunilda Myftaraj entranced the audience as she played Alexander Glazunov’s violin concerto and Witold Lutoslawski’s “Little Suite.” The Albanian violin prodigy came back on stage for an encore, with a playful rendition “Happy Birthday” in a salute to the newly established partnership and their first concert together.
The concert attracted patrons not just from New Britain and Bristol but from as far afield as Orange and Chester. Newington resident Marjorie Johnson said she was thrilled that the symphony was still operating and the convenience of not having to drive into Hartford made it even better.
As the sounds of Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” rose in a magnificent crescendo, Nicole Granados and her children Salem and Crichton of Bristol listened in amazement.
“This is their first symphony and to have it right here and kids are free makes it an easy thing to do as a family,” Granados said. “They really are quite good. It’s the best kept secret in New Britain.”
New Britain mayoral candidate Lucian Pawlak couldn’t have agreed more. In the audience to lend his support, he said the symphony is a testament to the city’s diversity.
“This is one of the foundations that underpin how New Britain stands out,” Pawlak said. “We can go from baseball to the symphony to a world-class art museum. To have all this in a small city like New Britain is something to be proud of.”

Patriot wrote on Oct 3, 2011 8:26 AM:
” The music was absolutely awesome. Congratulations to Nancy Judd and all of those responsible for the merger of these two orchestras. It was a powerful performance that brought tears to my eyes. Bravo! “