Opera America did well to inaugurate their Emerging Artist Recital Series in collaboration with the Music Academy of the West's 2012 Song Competition Winners. Marilyn Horne herself was present to introduce the two lovely ladies who performed a recital worth boasting about.
Accompanied with consummate artistry and sensitivity by collaborative pianist Maureen Zoltek, dramatic soprano Tracy Cox let loose with a huge creamy voice, eminently suited to the Verdi and Strauss that she performed side by side in the first half of the program. Ms. Cox broke the "one set, one composer" mold and inventively paired a song by Verdi with one by Strauss, counting on a unity of theme to bind them together. Verdi's "In solitaria stanza" was paired with Strauss' "Die Nacht", one of our personal favorites. "Stornello", one of our favorite Verdi songs was performed with convincing humor and paired with Strauss' "Die Verschwiegenen". "Il Tramonto" by Verdi was well-matched with Strauss' "Heimkehr". Strauss' charming "Muttertanderlei" stood in opposition to Verdi's tragic "La Seduzione". Two "drinking songs" closed the first half of the program--Strauss' romantic "Heimliche aufforderung" and Verdi's "Brindisi" in which the wine itself is the love object.
The second half of the program included Mark Carlson's setting of four sonnets by Pablo Neruda, of which our favorites were "Cuando yo muera" and "Reposa con tu sueño". The very dramatic "La Dame de Monte Carlo", Poulenc's setting of Jean Cocteau's text, gave Ms. Cox the opportunity to demonstrate her acting chops which are significant. The closing work was fun; Gabriel Kahane's setting of some very amusing Craigslist ads; one was of a very neurotic man seeking female companionship and the other was of a person seeking a roommate and offering a very cheap rent if only the roommate would tolerate his rather peculiar affliction. Ms. Cox made the most of these songs to the delight of the audience.
Ms. Cox has a stage presence as commanding as her voice. She knows just when to widen her eyes or wrinkle her nose and yet nothing is studied or artificial; it all seems to come out of her connection with the material. Her connection with the audience is equally impressive. Her huge voice just fills up the room, making all the molecules of oxygen vibrate. There is a thrill in the listening and we hear Wagner in her future. Could this be the Wagnerian we are all waiting for?
© meche kroop