In last night's Cosi Fan Tutte at Juilliard we were enveloped in romantic entanglements as experienced by two young couples. In a fortuitous coincidence last night's Liederabend comprised Hugo Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch, settings of anonymous Italian poetry translated into German by Paul Heyse. As presented by Vocal Coach Ken Noda, five different couples enacted (and we do mean "enacted") various stages in different kinds of romantic relationships. This enabled 10 gifted young singers from the Institute for Vocal Arts and 5 collaborative pianists the opportunity to experience an entire spectrum of emotions from delight to despair, from triumph to abjection, from abandonment to enmeshment, from satisfaction to frustration, from scorn to adoration. One of the glories of this style of presentation is that the singer not performing has the opportunity to react to the dramatic content of each song as sung by his/her partner.
Such a presentation of lieder moves it just a bit closer to opera and fortunately, all of the 10 singers are as gifted dramatically as they are vocally. Soprano Ying Fang showed the pain of separation in "Mir ward gesagt" and brought much personality to the humorous "Mein Liebster hat zu Tische mich geladen"; tenor Yujoong Kim was ardently romantic in "Ihr seid die Allerschönste". Soprano Pureum Jo put tenor Nathan Haller on notice in "Nein, junger Herr" for his woeful misbehavior; on his part, he expressed his reaction to her anger in "Wie soll ich fröhlich sein".
Soprano Raquel González and tenor Miles Mykkanen performed the next set of songs. In "Wer rief dich denn?" Ms. González puts Mr. Mykkanen in his place with an ultimatum; in turn, Mr. Mykkanen defended himself movingly in "Was soll der Zorn, mein Schatz". The following pair comprised soprano Julia Bullock who amusedly denigrated her lover in "Mein Liebster ist so klein" and baritone Takaoshi Onishi (who just won the Met National Council New York District Finals) after much futile praising of his lover finally turned things around in "Hoffärtig seid Ihr, schönes Kind".
The final set of songs was performed by soprano Deanna Breiwick and baritone Tobias Greenhalgh. Ms. Breiwick had the audience laughing as she sang "Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangen" in which the singer's dreams of having a musician as her lover are finally realized. Collaborative pianist Lachlan Glen managed to evoke the halting violinist as Ms. Breiwick showed her bemused tolerance of his scratching away. Mr. Greenhalgh wound up with most of the romantic songs and excelled at every one.
Aside from Mr. Glen, the other four collaborative pianists accompanied these pairs of singers with sincerity and sensitivity. In order of appearance, they were Daniel Fung, Dan K. Kurland, John Arida and Dimitri Dover. Their contributions to the success of the program were notable.
As if we were not sufficiently thrilled by the Liederabend, we spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how a stage full of pre-college instrumentalists could outplay some major big town orchestras we have heard. The Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra conducted by Adam Glaser tackled Mahler's Fourth with great attention to dynamics and sonorities. Christine Price performed the songs in the final movement. We first heard this symphony in 1980 when Walter Weller conducted the NY Philharmonic. Our young ears were seduced as soon as we heard the sleigh bells. We returned for a couple subsequent performances and have loved this work ever since. The young musicians truly honored the piece. It was preceded by two lovely French works, "Fêtes" from Debussy's Nocturnes and Camille Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op.22. Sarina Zhang played with power and delicacy as needed. Her fleet fingers made the runs look like child's play.
All of the evening's music originated in the late 19th c., perhaps our favorite period.
(c) meche kroop