"Under Cover of Night" was the title and theme of last night's Alice Tully Vocal Arts Recital, a theme we can well relate to since, by all accounts, we operate nocturnally. Soprano Jennifer Zetlan chose this theme in connection with the lost sleep of her pregnancy and motherhood, wondering how the night affects us emotionally and behaviorally. The night is given over to fantasy, to romance, to fears, melancholies, dreams, nightmares and terrors. In our case, it is given over to writing.
And what a pleasure it is to write about this lovely, gracious and talented singer whose gifts were evident from the very first "Oh" of Handel's aria from Semele, "Oh, sleep, why dost thou leave me?" which was marked by a beautifully controlled crescendo. This was only the beginning of a varied program that gave Ms. Zetlan the opportunity to show her skills in German, Russian and Spanish and to connect with her audience as well as her material. Her piano partner David Shimoni always supported with appropriate technique and never overwhelmed the singer or the song.
The bulk of the program was give over to the late 19th c. which is our personal favorite. Songs by Grieg, Brahms, Wolf, Debussy, Strauss, Granados and Rimsky-Korsakov were performed with poise and secure technique. Each song was given its own particular interpretation that sounded nothing like the other songs. Ms. Zetlan is a remarkable story-teller and we especially enjoyed the mini-operas written into Wolf's songs, both the humorous "Elfenlied" and the horror-filled "Die Geister am Mummelsee". The melodic "Po nebu polunochi" by Rimsky-Korsakov was filled with spiritual awe. Strauss' "Die Nacht" expressed the poet's anxiety about losing his loved one.
Ms. Zetlan is a champion of new music and was joined by the Attacca Quartet for Nico Muhly's Far Away Songs in their world premiere. As encores, she sang Rachmaninoff's "Son" and Irving Berlin's "Yiddishe Nightingale" which left the audience grinning as they exited. Nighttime never sounded so good!
(c) meche kroop