|Curtain call at Marilyn Horne's 80th Birthday Celebration|
The program for the evening was devised by Matthew Epstein, Martin Katz and Jeremy Geffen; it comprised songs and arias that Ms. Horne made famous, and some that she loves to hear--Baroque, Broadway and in between. Carnegie Hall has been home to Ms. Horne's presence for over half a century and plays host to The Marilyn Horne Legacy. Hosts for the evening were the delightful mezzo Frederica von Stade and "silver fox" bass-baritone Samuel Ramey who took turns reading from a script that attempted to summarize Ms. Horne's glorious life. Collaborative pianists for the evening were the esteemed Warren Jones and Martin Katz.
Mezzo Jamie Barton impressed with her musicianship, her vocal colors and unique chocolate sound--rich and creamy in Mahler's "Urlicht" from Des Knabens Wunderhorn; later she melded her marvelous sound with that of countertenor David Daniels in "Son nata a lagrimar" from Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto. Mr. Daniels also sang one of our very favorite baroque arias "O del mio dolce ardor" from Paride ed Elena. He also sang one of Ms. Horne's favorite songs "Blackberry Winter" by Alec Wilder, demonstrating that popular songs can achieve the same status as operatic arias when sung beautifully and without straining for special effects.
Mezzo Isabel Leonard contributed the tender Montsalvatge lullaby "Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito" from Canciones Negras. We always love to hear Ms. Leonard sing in Spanish; it always just sounds "right"! That being said, we were delighted to hear her aria from Rossini's La Cenerentola, "Nacqui al'affanno--Non più mesta". She fearlessly attacked the lavish fioritura with pinpoint accuracy and consummate phrasing. But, of course, we expected nothing less of her.
Two sopranos also made a fine showing--the lovely Brenda Rae whom we haven't heard since enjoying her Violetta in Santa Fe last summer and Renée Fleming who tore herself away from a rehearsal and performance at The Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Rae sang the charming "Lied der Delphine" by Schubert with its riveting climax and later wowed the audience with "O beau pays de la Touraine" from Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots. Undaunted by the runs and skips and trills, it was a goosebump-making performance.
Ms. Fleming sang "Träume" from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder with its foreshadowing of his opera Tristan und Isolde. Later she sang the charming duet "Lippen schweigen" from Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe with tenor Piotr Beczala as her romantic interest. Mr. Beczala also sang Beethoven's passionate song "Adelaide" and made it plain why he is in such great demand onstage these days.
Baritone Lester Lynch sang the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" and "Zion's Walls" and also the wonderful and very sad Verdi aria "Eri tu" from Un ballo in maschera.
There were two unexpected treats on the program: Ms. von Stade and Mr. Ramey performed Lerner and Loewe's "I Remember It Well" from Gigi. These two veterans injected new life into the delightful duet. To bring the evening to a rousing conclusion, the famed vocalist Barbara Cook ascended the stage with her accompanist Lee Musiker and sang Arthur Butler's "Here's to Life"; a more fitting tribute to the Birthday Girl could not be imagined.
The curtain call was a real love-fest with Ms. Horne embracing every single artist in turn. To Ms. Horne we would like to say "Cent'anni"...can one imagine THAT celebration!!!!