Musical Duel Makes Debut U.S. Performance at Congregations of Shaare Shamayim

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Tenors (from left to right) Raúl Melo, Adam Klein and Benjamin Sloman. Photo by Irina Danilova

In opera, there are plenty of famous duels, but on April 9, you can see a new kind: a vocal duel between tenors and baritones singing opera classics. And you get to decide who wins.

Talents of the World, an international concert organization, brings “A Musical Duel of Tenors and Baritones” to Congregations of Shaare Shamayim at 3 p.m. The brainchild of renowned baritone and recipient of the United Nation’s Medal for Promoting Arts and Culture David Gvinianidze, the concert will make its U.S. debut at the local synagogue.

Three tenors and three baritones from various countries, including the U.S., Russia, Armenia and Australia, will face off in a friendly competition.

“The exciting part in this one is the audience will actually get to participate,” Shaare Shamayim Executive Director Jacques Lurie said.

The performers are veterans of numerous companies, from the Metropolitan Opera to New York Lyric Opera Theatre. One of the tenors, Benjamin Sloman, got his start as a cantor in Australia, and was trained at the Cantorial Institute in Tel Aviv.

For the singers, the performance provides a chance to meet other singers and encourage interest in live performance.

Tenor Adam Klein is excited to perform with the baritones — even if they are in competition.

Klein, from New York City, got his start in opera at an early age after his father helped a family friend prepare for an audition for the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. After she was accepted, she encouraged Klein’s father to have his children audition for the children’s chorus.

So Klein and his brother auditioned and were accepted.

“I spent four years in the Met Children’s Chorus in the ’70s and my brother was in for seven years, and so that’s how I first got into opera,” Klein recalled. “And then I went and did other things until my early 20s, and then I decided for various reasons that maybe I should try and make a career in opera.”

Since that time, he has performed in various roles in well-known operas such as Carmen — which he performed in Philadelphia with the now defunct Pennsylvania Opera Theater in 1991 — and in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades as Herman, his favorite role.

“The thing I enjoy most about [opera] is when it’s good, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a synthesis of several art forms at the same time. It doesn’t always measure up to that, but when it does, there’s nothing in art or music or theater that compares to it because it’s all these things happening at the same time.”

He is looking forward to seeing what this performance will actually entail — especially since the performance they were supposed to do in Worcester, Mass., on March 31 was snowed out.

“Based on the program we were supposed to do for Worcester, it’s almost like an Olympics,” he laughed. “We’ll get up, I’ll sing an aria and then some baritone will sing a similar aria and the audience will get to vote on which one they thought was better, but it’s not like we’re actually better. It sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The concert will include non-operatic music as well, allowing the audience to see the performers work in different genres.

“There will be opera, there will be Neapolitan songs, there might even be Russian Art Songs or ‘romances,’ as they call them, and there might be some Broadway-type stuff. And I might even play my banjo in an American folk song,” he teased. “[The audience] can expect to have a really good time. They can expect to hear people who are maybe … supposed to sing only one kind of music sing all different types, which I really like.”

Klein has participated in many Three Tenors concerts with Talents of the World, but he’s never worked with his duel competitors before. He thinks audience members are in for a treat.

“It’s not going to be ‘just sit there and listen.’ They’re going to actually be asked to express opinions with their applause,” he said. “It’s more of a community event instead of a classical concert. And in the arts we need all the help we can get getting people interested in live performance in this age of the MP3.”

As for who’s going to win, he may be a little biased.

“Of course I have to say the tenors are going to win,” he laughed. “We sing higher, you’ll see. We have to win.”

For more information about the performance, visit talentsoftheworld.tix.com.

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0740