“Ear, Skin and Bone Riddles by the Brazilian-born, Chicago-based Marcos Balter is a six-minute setting of texts by Michael Walsh, a Minneapolis poet. Balter’s static phrases and rich harmonies weave a haunting sonic landscape. Soprano Susan Hellman Spatafora delivered Balter’s parse lines with a rich timbre, bell-like high notes and great clarity, accompanied by evocative lighting. The restrained playing of violinist Dillon Welch and cellist Clare Bradford aided the atmosphere of stillness.” –South Florida Classical Review
“Susan Hellman Spatafora takes on the title role, the equal of a far more well known soprano I saw years ago. A few of the early musical lines drift a bit below the strongest parts of her voice, but once in the confrontation scene and heading toward the ending, she shows her best and turns in a blazing performance. In the very end (spoiler alert), when the ghost of the son appears and a brilliant piece of stage craft, I was sobbing. I really wondered if I could hold it together for the last five minutes.” –Talkin’ Broadway
“As Susannah, the innocent girl whom the village elders deem a sinner when they spy her bathing naked in a creek, Susan Hellman Spatafora at first overflows with unsullied youthful exuberance, unaware that her beauty inspires lust in the village’s men and jealousy in their wives. In “Ain’t It a Pretty Night,” the opera’s most popular number, her soprano has the perfect yearningly optimistic coloring—golden and radiant—intensifying Susannah’s imminent tragedy. Spatafora’s desperation at the end of Act I is heartrending; she truly cannot understand why anyone would say such terrible things about her. By the time she sings her Act II aria, amid the deterioration of Susannah’s life, Spatafora’s voice has grown raw with emotion and richer in overtones. Because she embodied such innate goodness at the beginning, it’s startling to see her in the final scene defiantly holding a rifle and laughing bitterly at the hypocrisy of the villagers who have come to confront her.” –Opera News
“Susan Hellman, in the title role, has a rich, dramatic soprano voice. In the beginning, as she portrays the innocent young woman, marveling at the starry skies and kindly treating an adolescent admirer, the voice seems too powerful for the part. But she needs it later, when she must convey the anguish of being falsely accused, then being abused by the preacher and finally forced to accept her abandonment and isolation. In these latter moments, Hellman is chillingly effective.” –Tampa Bay Times
“…the voice is an impressive instrument, and her anguish in the second half of the opera is palpable.” –Classics Today
“Susan Hellman offered a thoughtful, dramatic reading of the soprano solo. Her voice is at once operatic, yet clearly intelligible, providing the music and poetry with both direction and precision. Friedman had clear command of the complex music, and his direction of both the orchestra and the Chorus was studied and musical. This music is beyond the bounds usually sought by community choruses, but Women’s Voices Chorus seemed to delight in the challenge of its complexity…their dedication to new music and its beautiful performance is admirable. Clearfield, who was in the audience for the performance, can only be pleased with the impact her music has had on both the musicians and the audience.” –The Classical Voice of North Carolina
“Tenor Mark Nicolson was a worthy partner as Jose, from the hand-on-heart lyricism of scenes with the soldier’s hometown girlfriend, Micaela (Susan Hellman)”
“Hellman brought down the house [with her outbreak of coloratura] in Micaela’s dramatic aria in Act 3.” –St. Petersburg Times
“Susan Hellman Spatafora as Giulietta, which is the least interesting of the ladies to sing, having no aria of her own. I can mention that Ms. Spatafora was outstanding as Susannah in the opera of the same name a few years ago.” –Talkin’ Broadway
“I’m happy to say the St. Petersburg Opera delivered the goods on both. And boy did it ever…The singing was energetic, bold, and heartfelt. The well-timed movement of the singers and dancers was as startling as lightning striking twenty feet away…For continuity of theme, Offenbach wanted one soprano to sing all four of Hoffmann’s love interests. But because this production wisely declined, it benefitted from the individuated movements of all three actresses – the quirky-jerky Olympia, the callow and tentative Antonia, and the flirtatious Guilietta.
… [Nicklausse] performed this most memorable of arias with Susan Hellman Spatafora as Guilietta. Both sung with excellent restraint that bordered on the understated. My mother would have loved it. –Stylus
“Far and away the best scene was the finale, a splendidly sung and convincingly acted quartet from Puccini’s La Boheme. Soprano Susan Jean Hellman was the radiant Mimi as she and her Rodolfo…agree reluctantly to split up.”
“Hellman owned the Act III aria Donde lieta usci (Happy leaving … goodbye without resentment). She and Cheney are the sublime twosome, alone in their little world, oblivious of Flores and Loyd, who barge in and out slinging words at each other.”
“The Hellman soprano solo, Casta Diva (Bellini’s Norma… finished among the strongest.” –Palm Beach Post
“The Palm Beach Opera’s second cast of its current production of La Boheme is a young one, and overall on Saturday night they gave an understated performance with fine acting and singing. And while the stage direction of the legendary Italian soprano Renata Scotto offered some indelible freeze-frame tableaux, it was as an ensemble that this cast of singers impressed.
Resident artist Susan Jean Hellman sang the soprano lead of Mimi. At first, Hellman’s nerves almost took charge, with tremolos here and there in her entrance aria Mi chiamano Mimi. However, she settled down to give a very fine performance.
Her beautiful soprano, delicate as required at times because she is dying of consumption, won the audience’s general approval.” –Palm Beach Arts Paper
“One of the most dramatic moments of the evening was the Nedda-Silvio duet from “Pagliacci,” with baritone Phillip Addis, who will play the Count, and soprano Susie Hellman”
“Hellman also combined her brilliant soprano and a very human warmth in ‘Ain’t it a pretty night’ from Carlisle Floyd’s ‘Susannah.’” –Times Argus
“Frankly, as rare as it is to hear the radically low voice called Russian bass, I favored Duluth soprano Susan Jean Hellman (Boheme’s Mimi in a lavender gown) named eighth place” –Palm Beach Post
“Soprano Susan Jean Hellman was a strong and competent Giannetta” –Palm Beach Daily News
“And right in our own midst is a marvelous find: company resident artist Susan Jean Hellman as Giannetta, Adina’s confidant. The soprano’s large, beautiful voice often grabs attention, for low notes as impressive as the high.” –Palm Beach Post
“Good singing in minor roles also came from Susan Jean Hellman as Clotilde and Rolando Sanz as Flavio.” –Palm Beach Arts Paper
“Rolando Sanz and Susan Jean Hellman serviceable as Flavio and Clotilde.” –South Florida Classical Review
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