Sometimes one sits through 4-5 hours of opera and feels drained. And sometimes one can have an hour of music that leaves one feeling uplifted and satisfied. Such was the case last night when we had the good fortune of attending a recital by Robert White's students. It was amazing to witness such poise and talent in a group of seniors--undergraduates all. Never having sat in on his class, we can only extrapolate from the evidence of the performances. We imagine they spent the entire semester preparing for this recital with an enormous amount of study of the text, the period, the language, the inherent drama, the means of sharing this knowledge with the audience, and so on.
Each of the seven students brought something different to the recital. Soprano Lindsey Nakatani sang three songs by Henri Duparc with suitable Gallic sensitivity. Baritone Jay Dref showed great stage personality with songs by Kander & Ebb, Steven Sondheim, and Lerner & Loewe, therein demonstrating that Broadway shows are truly on a par with 19th c. operas (which were the popular music of their day).
Baritone Philip Stoddard had such fine German diction in a late Romantic lied by Hermann Zilcher that we never needed to glance at the translations. That he showed a light and humorous side in a cabaret song by William Bolcom was further evidence that lighter music was treated as seriously as lieder by Mr. White.
Soprano Jessica Taylor brought winsomeness to some songs by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Cole Porter, 20th c. American classics all. Mezzo Virginie Verrez sang 3 songs by Jake Heggie, settings of texts by Frederica von Stade (who knew?)
Soprano Heather Stebbins blew us away with Hugo Wolf's "Verborgenheit", illustrating the despair with a rich chocolate sound that we look forward to hearing again. A lighter side was demonstrated in Verdi's "Stornello" which was equally enjoyable.
To close the program and send everyone out smiling, tenor Miles Mykkanen brought down the house with 3 Sondheim songs. Our personal favorite was "Moments in the Woods", otherwise known as the song of the Baker's Wife. Mr. Mykkanen could easily find a home on the Broadway stage if he decides against opera.
Piano partner for all singers was Anastasia Dedik.
The biggest thrill of the evening, beside the generous display of talent and hard work, was the concept of treating 20th c. American classics with the same respect and attention as lieder. To those who think serious academic music of that period is the true child of operatic parents, we would be happy to argue the point. Your comments are welcome.
(c) meche kroop