Review: “Homeland” Concert

Review:  “Homeland” Concert

by Elena Greco

Opera America, New York City
Stefanos Koroneos, Baritone
Thor Arbjornsson, Tenor
Areti Giovanou, Piano

December 2, 2015

I will probably never get respect as a music reviewer.  That’s because I could never say snarky things about singers’ performances.  Well, maybe not never, but it would be rare.  That’s because I know how hard the performers’ job is, and that since they’re human, it hurts when people say snarky things about the job they’ve put their heart and soul into doing—as well as lots of time, money and sweat in preparation.

Fortunately, I don’t need to say any snarky things about the performance I saw tonight because it was absolutely delightful!  I was fortunate to be at the “Homeland” concert at Opera America, where Greek-American baritone Stefanos Koroneos, Icelandic tenor Thor Arbjornsson and Greek pianist Areti Giovanou performed arrangements of Greek and Icelandic folk songs.

Yes, Icelandic music was heard in New York tonight!  I have had a secret yen to visit Iceland for a while now, and I felt one step closer to Iceland hearing Icelandic folk music sung by an Icelandic singer.  Arbjornsson possesses a light, lovely tenor and gave us a highly personal rendition, complete with commentary, of Icelandic folk tunes set by composer Eyþór Stefánsson; they covered important Icelandic topics such as elves, drinking and talking to birds(!).

The Greek song cycle, “Captain Michaelis,” written by Oscar-winning composer Manos Hatjidakis and masterfully sung by Greek native Stefanos Koroneos, tells the story of a Greek captain who committed his life to the freedom of Crete and died fighting for it.  These songs were rich with the nuance, rhythm and joie de vivre of Greek folk music, and Koroneos’ large, rich, dark voice suited them perfectly.  Also exquisite was the fiery yet highly lyrical playing of pianist Areti Giovanou, who performed her supportive role as accompanist with great skill.

All of the performers drew the audience into their performance, both through speaking informally about the songs and through their obvious joy in singing them.  Aside from the terrible acoustics in the hall (there; I said something snarky!), which did not allow the audience to hear the full resonant beauty of the two voices, this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert, one which I recommend if they should do it again in the future.

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