Music: Velvet

It was like something out of Hollywood's own book.

Dark-eyed Elena Nikolaidi, assured and lovely in a pale taffeta gown, stepped out on the stage of Manhattan's Town Hall, composed her hands and began to sing. Her voice, ranging from a mellow low contralto to a brilliant mezzo-soprano, glided through songs by Gluck, Haydn, Schubert, Rossini, Mahler, Ravel and De-Falla; the performance came to an end with the Sleep-Walking Scene from Verdi's Macbeth. The audience shuffled their programs to look at the name again. Thirtyish Elena Nikolaidi, making her U.S. debut and almost unknown outside Athens and Vienna, had achieved one of...

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