Tuesday, January 30, 2018

An Afternoon of Romantic Opera and Song With Members of The Metropolitan Opera Comes To Forest Hills


Start your Valentine’s Day celebration early with a romantic afternoon of opera and song, delightfully sung by Metropolitan Opera stars Clay Hilley (tenor) and Melissa Citro (soprano). Joined by pianist Barbara Podgurski, the opera stars will sing gorgeous love duets of Wagner as well as beloved arias of Puccini, Verdi, Strauss and more. Reception to follow with an opportunity to meet the artists. 

Artist Bios:

Melissa Citro, Soprano

In her company debut, Melissa Citro gave unstintingly of a bright and beautiful voice, singing with the utmost security and power. Her portrayal of the unhappy heroine was fully nuanced, demonstrating a complete understanding of this complex character. The song to the moon was ravishingly sung.
George Dansker – Opera News 11/16/14 
“As Magda, Melissa Citro brought her Wagnerian soprano to the role and stopped the performance in the second act with her aria, when she finally snaps in the face of the unseen Consul’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Ms. Citro is already singing such Wagnerian roles as a Norn and a Valkyrie in major houses. She has a great career ahead of her. See her now. ” – The Glimmerglass Festival, The Consul – CNY Café Momus

This past season Melissa debuted the role of Minnie in La Fanciulla del West both with Michigan Opera Theatre and Opera Colorado. This summer she performed Marina in Dvorak’s rarely heard Dmitrij at the Bard Festival, and in the summer of 2018 performs Gutrune in San Francisco Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring while covering Brunnhilde in Siegfried and Sieglinde in Die Walkure.

In the 2015-16 season she made her Washington Opera debut as Gutrune in their new production of Gotterdammerung, returned to New Orleans Opera as Rosilinde in Die Fledermaus, and made her debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. Recent engagements include her debut with the San Francisco Opera as Freia in Das Rheingold, and Gutrune in Götterdämmerung, and her role debut as Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre with the Virginia Opera. Last season she covered Senta in Der Fliegende Hollander with San Francisco Opera, and returned to the Metropolitan Opera where she covered Renee Fleming in the title role in Dvořák’s Rusalka. Prior to that she joined the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera casts of The Makropulous Case, where she covered Karita Mattila as Emilia, and made her role debut as Senta in Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s production of Der Fliegende Hollander. In the 2014-15 season she performed the role of Rusalka with New Orleans Opera and the title role of La Wally in her debut with the Dallas Opera. In the summer of 2009 Ms. Citro made her debut with Glimmerglass Opera as Magda Sorel in Menotti’s The Consul. Ms. Citro made her international debut in the title role of Janáček’s Jenůfa in Calixto Bieito’s acclaimed production for the Stuttgart Opera in 2008. During the 2009 – 2010 season, Ms. Citro returned to the Los Angeles Opera to sing the roles of Ortlinde and Third Norn and covered the roles of Sieglinde and Guturne in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. She joined the Hawaii Opera Theatre as Ortlinde in Die Walküre, and was heard with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder with conductor Marc Taddei. Ms. Citro made her Los Angeles Opera debut in 2008 as the Nursing Sister in Suor Angelica, directed by William Friedkin with James Conlon. In 2006 and 2007 for the Los Angeles Opera Ms. Citro covered the roles of Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Gertrude in Hänsel und Gretel and the title role of Jenůfa.

Other past engagements have included Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program and Western Opera Theater, and the High Priestess in Rameau’s Hippolytus and Aricia with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. While a fellowship artist at Music Academy of the West, her role assignments included the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos and Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring. Ms. Citro was a Grand Finals Winner of the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Additional awards have included the George London Award, the Richman Award from Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and the first place winner of the Mario Lanza Competition. Ms. Citro was a scholarship winner at the Westminster Choir College and the Juilliard School.

Clay Hilley, Tenor

Hailed by Broadway World as "every bit the heldentenor that Siegfried demands," young tenor Clay Hilley is already in demand internationally for German, Czech, Italian, and French heroes. 

The New York Times reviewed his recent portrayal of Dvořák's Dimitrij, "The role is a daunting challenge for a heroic tenor. Clay Hilley brought vocal heft, clarion sound and stamina to the role.” Opera News opined: "Tenor Clay Hilley...communicated Dimitrij's sincerity and sang the beleaguered leader's difficult, high-lying music with musical skill, emotional investment and attractive tone quality. Hilley's Wagnerian potential extends to clear suitability for several Slavic roles.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said of his Siegfried, "...if tenor Clay Hilley approaches his career intelligently, he’ll be playing the young hero for years to come... It’s a voice with beauty, size and heft, and the high tessitura appeared to be no problem for him.” 

In 2017/2018 Hilley joins the roster of The Metropolitan Opera, covering the title role in Parsifal; San Francisco Opera, covering Calaf (Turandot), Siegmund (Die Walküre), Siegfried (Siegfried), and Siegfried(Götterdämmerung); and The Dallas Opera, covering Samson (Samson et Dalila).

On only forty-eight hours’ notice in November 2017, Clay took on—for the first time, and with only one single rehearsal— the tenor solos in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde for The Apollo Orchestra in Washington D.C. 

In January of 2018 the Wagner Society of New York presents Clay in recital, singing a program of Mahler, Janáček, Mozart, Dvořák, and Wagner. This Society awarded Hilley its Top Prize, the Robert Lauch Award, in 2015.

In future seasons Hilley returns to San Francisco Opera; he also joins for the first time the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

The 2016/2017 season took Clay to Virginia Opera (Canio, Pagliacci), Austin Lyric Opera (Erik, The Flying Dutchman), Bard Summerscape (Dimitrij), Washington National Opera (Father Grenville, Dead Man Walking), and Opera Project Columbus (Luigi, Il tabarro). Hilley also flew to Salzburg on three days’ notice to relieve an ailing tenor colleague in a production of Idomeneo for the Salzburger Landestheater.

Other highlights from recent seasons include Siegfried (covering the title role for the Canadian Opera Company), Siegfried (Götterdämmerung), Radamés (Aïda), and Florestan (Fidelio). 

On the concert stage, Clay has appeared at Carnegie Hall as Gundelfingen in Strauss's Feuersnot, and as tenor soloist for Mahler's Symphony no. 8. He debuted at Lincoln Center in 2013 as tenor soloist for Verdi's Requiem.
A native of Georgia, he received the Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education at the University of Georgia, the Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Georgia State University, a Professional Studies Certificate from the Manhattan School of Music, and a Performer's Certificate from the Opera Institute at Boston University.


A native of New York, pianist Barbara Podgurski holds a DMA in piano performance from The Graduate Center (CUNY) as well as a BM in piano performance and an MM in both piano performance and music theory from the Mannes College of Music. Dr. Podgurski has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Europe and has performed at many of the world’s finest venues including a number of performances at Carnegie Hall. She has been featured in numerous television and radio broadcasts, including appearances on WQXR’s Young Artists Showcase, WNYC’s “Soundcheck”, NPR, WPLN Nashville’s “Live from Studio C”, WQED and numerous others. Ms. Podgurski was recently featured on a television documentary for NHK in Japan with her touring partner violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn and the famed “Red” Mendelssohn Stradivarius. 

Ms. Podgurski was a special guest in March 2015 performing for the National Association of Broadcasters at the 2015 Golden Mike Awards with Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker. Past collaborations with renowned artists including violinists Philippe Graffin and the late Lorand Fenyves, flutist Harold Jones, clarinetist Charles Neidich, pianists Diane Walsh and Seymour Lipkin, and cellists Manfred Stilz, Marcy Rosen and the late Paul Tobias. Dr. Podgurski has premiered numerous new works including a commission of a concerto by Pulitzer-Prize winning composer George Walker which she premiered with the Queens Symphony Orchestra. 

She is a dedicated proponent of new music, focusing on premiering works of NYC based composers and programming such works on her concert series based in New York. Barbara has been working for a number of years with the Department of Cultural Affairs as a main contact for organizing and contracting musicians for the 9-11 Commemoration Memorial (live televised broadcast from Ground Zero in NYC) and most recently was invited with her colleagues to perform at a private ceremony for Pope Francis and members of the United Nations in an interfaith prayer service during the 2015 Papal visit to NYC. Dr. Podgurski is currently the Executive and Artistic Director of Musica Reginae Productions in Queens, NY. She is also a past Music Director of NIAM (Nantucket Island Arts and Music Summer Festival). 

She is a member of the Lexington Piano Trio (with violinist Cyrus Beroukhim and cellist Arash Amini) as well as the Barbad Chamber Orchestra and Ensemble based in Astoria, Queens. A former faculty member at The Mannes College of Music and Hunter College, she is currently on the faculty of Mercy College, the RiverArts Music Program in Hudson Valley, and is a consultant for the Board of Education for both New York City and New York State. By invitation in 2014, Dr. Podgurski became a Steinway Teaching Artist. She performed once again this past spring at Carnegie Hall (NY), toured this past summer with performances on Nantucket, at the Luzerne Summer Music Festival and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, and has just returned from a tour including concerts in St. Croix (USVI) and Palm Beach (FL). She also performed this November with the rock band Evanescence on their Synthesis Tour. Barbara is currently a contributing writer to Cambridge’s Nineteenth Century Music Review.

Musica Reginae Productions (MRP) was formed in 2000 in order to expand the availability of classical music for the residents of Queens in their home borough, to build community and the audience for classical and other fine music in Queens. MRP is committed to bringing the highest caliber of artists to its concert series, and in addition to its evening concert series MRP hosts a series of interactive, educational programs for children both in the classroom and in everyday recreational settings within the community, in the company of family members and friends. MRP is dedicated to serving the citizens of Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the United States. Each year MRP continues to build its community audience base through programming a variety of musical genres including traditional classical, modern (classical), Jazz, experimental and World-music genres. Providing the community with a series of hosted, informative concert events with a great variety of musical genres and styles has been the central focal point of MRP, now in its 18th concert season. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Aerosoles in Forest Hills Closes

This was the line outside the store on 71st / Continental Ave. the other day. I was told January 27th was their final day...

Forest Hills Stadium - 2018

The winter winds still blow, but fear not, summer is coming.  As proof, the first two shows of the 2018 summer concert series at Forest Hills Stadium have been announced!  Tickets for both are on sale now:

June 8 - Belle & Sebastian with Perfume Genius and Frankie Cosmos

June 9 - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and The Head and The Heart.  Special guest Hiss Golden Messenger

And also, just added today:

alt-J has announced a unique concert at #ForestHillsStadium on Friday, June 15, the largest venue the band has ever headlined in North America. This performance is the only immersive sound show in the continent.
In another first for the band, the show will feature a surround speaker system enveloping the entire audience. The speakers will be used throughout the show to position sound effects mixed into a variety of the band’s material, thus creating an immersive sound experience.
The band has recently won the prestigious ‘Knights Of Illumination’ award for lighting production in an arena, which will also be featured at this show.
For this incredibly special event with guest Kamasi Washington the venue will have a general admission floor and a general admission bowl, so that fans can experience the show from every angle.
Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 10 AM Eastern at ForestHillsStadium.com!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Two Excellent Asian Takeout Options on Austin

I just wanted to call everyone's attention to these neighbors over on the eastern portion of Austin St., near Ascan and across from the church: Violet's Vietnamese Shoppe and Xin Taste Lan Zhou Hand Pull Noodle. The two shops, which are right next to each other (photo below was taken from inside La Boulangerie), are both excellent additions to the growing number of quality restaurants that have been opening in the past few years in Forest Hills.

Violet's specializes in Vietnamese cuisine. When it first opened it served mostly pastries. But, its owners rightly summed up the situation here in Forest Hills (way too many pastry and dessert places!! Way too few places for excellent takeout food!!) and righted that wrong pretty quickly. Today, Violet's offers a spectacular variety of Banh Mi sandwiches, from pork to chicken to flounder and vegetarian, along with noodle soups, and noodle bowls and rice bowls. It also offers a variety of specialty drinks and bubble teas.

Right next door is the new Xin Taste, which just opened in December. Given how cold it's been, I immediately dived into their noodle soups, but that is just a small part of their menu. They offer a variety of hand-pulled and hand-peeled noodle dishes (see the link for what I believe is an explanation of the difference. Though, if I am wrong about that, please let me know in the comment section below. I have yet to talk with the owners about the difference and get the low-down firsthand.)

In any case, I'm happy to report that the soups I've had at Xin Taste have been just great. When it comes to soups like these - big, filling bowls of noodles, broth and meat  - the standard against which I always judged has been Ollie's in Manhattan. Well, the roast pork noodle soup I've had a few times from Xin Taste comes damn close to that! The pork is tender, sweet and delicious, the broth tasty, the noodles really good, and the portion size just right.

By the way, Xin Taste offers a decent amount of tables so you can also eat in. Violet's also does, but if I recall, not as many tables.

I'm looking forward to delving further into the menus of both of these excellent additions to the Forest Hills food scene.

Xin Taste's menu