|Bradley Moore and Jamie Barton|
The first thing you notice about Ms. Barton is the poise with which she commands the stage. There is not a whiff of arrogance but rather a sureness that says "I have a great gift and I am delighted to be sharing it with you today". And share she did! The capacity audience was so enthusiastic that they applauded every number. It was remarkable how cell phones were permanently silenced, candies remained wrapped, coughs were stifled, and whispering was nonexistent. In an artist of this caliber, there is nothing left to say about her superlative voice. What one notices is her skill at relating to the audience.
The program opened with Purcell's "Music for a While" adapted by Benjamin Britten; indeed, all our cares were beguiled. A set of songs by Brahms followed, each one in a different mood. The playfulness of "Ständchen" was followed by the passion of "Meine Liebe ist Grün"; "Unbewegte, laue Luft" began dreamily but became ardent. Ms. Barton captured the two voices in "Von ewiger Liebe", the concerned young man and his resolute sweetheart.
The Sibelius songs that followed were equally enthralling. "Svarta Rosor" had a bitter flavor while "Säf, säf, süsa" was dirgelike. We have heard the popular "Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte" numerous times but Ms. Barton made it new again as she gave voice to the questioning mother and the evasive daughter. "Marssnön" is a gentle song about a late snowfall delaying the onset of Spring. "Var det en dråm?" was filled with melancholy and nostalgia. So many colors in her voice!
The second half of the program comprised songs by Charles Ives and Edward Elgar. Twentieth century songs in English will never make it to our Top Twenty list but we happily admit that Ms. Barton made sense out of poetry that we favor not at all. Actually "Memories Very Pleasant and Very Sad" rather delighted us. Ms. B. milked every drop of childhood excitement from "We're sitting in the opera house" and actually whistled! The sad memory about a threadbare tune associated with a dead uncle was given a full measure of grief.
In Elgar's "Sea Slumber Song" Ms. B. got a chance to show off her powerful lower register, and in "The Swimmer" to show off her big money note at the end. Her reknowned collaborative pianist Bradley Moore was supportive throughout and we enjoyed his rippling piano in "In Haven".
The first encore was "Never Never Land" from Peter Pan--music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Comden and Green. Yes, Virginia, an opera singer can sing a Broadway tune without sounding affected! Drawing the afternoon to a stunning close was "Stella del Marinar" from Ponchielli's La Gioconda. Major WOW!
There will be two more impressive singers in this series; watch out for tenor Paul Appleby on January 26th and Nadine Sierra on February 9th. We cannot imagine better choices and are thrilled to have a new vocal series in New York City. This one is well worth the trip downtown.
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