With the looks of a diva, the personality of the girl next door and the voice of an angel, it is no wonder that Nadine Sierra's star just keeps on rising. We have thrilled to her voice ever since Marilyn Horne introduced her in the series "On Wings of Song" a few years ago and have watched her win prizes and awards that were richly deserved. Last night we had the opportunity to hear her once more at her Carnegie Hall debut; she just keeps getting better and better.
Ms. Sierra, glamorously gowned and coiffed, surprised us by addressing the audience in a most gracious manner, thanking us for coming and sharing her excitement about the program she has worked on for over a year with her piano partner, the estimable Carol Wong. She began the evening with Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse by Claude Debussy manifesting lovely French diction, a great deal of Gallic charm and a wide variation of mood.
Six Songs by Rachmaninoff, Op.38 followed, the last songs that the master ever wrote, composed before he left Russia, settings all of Symbolist poetry. Ms. Sierra's connection with the material was evident and deep, as she went from the melancholy of "In My Garden at Night" to the frisky "The Rat-Catcher" and the mystical "A Dream".
The second half of the program explored a more cheerful terrain. Leonard Bernstein's La Bonne Cuisine comprises four amusing recipes mistranslated from the French. Funny indeed! But it was in the final set of songs by Villa-Lobos that Ms. Sierra let out all the stops; she told of her customary inclusion of songs in Portuguese to celebrate her mother's heritage. "Cançao do Marinheiro" had many vocal turns that reminded us of flamenco music. This was followed by a sorrowful lament entitled "Cantilena" which was in turn followed by an amusing "A Gatinha parda" about a lost kitten and the rhythmic haunting "Nhapope". The closing number was a folk song arranged by Francisco Ernani Braga--a real tongue twister. As encore we heard Grieg's "Ein Traum" and noted Ms. Sierra's equal skills in German.
This young lady possesses a gorgeous instrument of which she is in complete control. In the upper register there is plenty of squillo. We felt our cells vibrating along with the overtones. The involvement of the rapt audience matched Ms. Sierra's involvement with her material. One felt invited into her musical world and all the better for it. We walked home on air!
(c) meche kroop