We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Anna Caterina Antonacci and Donald Sulzen

The more you know about singing the more you would have been in a position to appreciate last night's recital--part of Lincoln Center's Great Performers Series.  Although even someone who knew nothing about vocal production and performance would have been enthralled, this was an evening for the connoisseur.  Ms. Antonacci is an artist's artist, truly a marvel of musicianship.

The program was entirely in French, a language with which she is not only comfortable but incredibly adept, keeping the words in the forward part of the mouth and enunciating as clearly as one might have hoped.  She sings soprano roles at present but her past experience with mezzo-soprano roles is evidenced by the rich coloring of her tone.

She began the program with Hector Berlioz' La mort d'Ophélie, the sad tale of Ophelia's death from Shakespeare's Hamlet.  The heartfelt emotion of the text by Ernest Legouvé was beautifully conveyed by apt word coloring while the piano of Donald Sulzen created the flowing of the brook.  Indeed Ms. Antonacci is a proponent of Berlioz' music and one could tell how intensely she felt it. The thrill of the entire evening could be heard in the way this amazing artist handled the melismatic exclamation "Ah!"

Our personal favorite of the evening was Claude Debussy's impressionistic Chansons de Bilitis.  Pierre Louÿs' text is very special, creating pictures of Ancient Greece in the mind's eye.  We have heard these songs so many times but Ms. Antonacci made them new again.  "La chevelure" was particularly successful in its sensual imagery and word coloring. Mr. Sulzen conveyed the richly textured harmonies magnificently.

One of Henri Duparc's few jewels, "La vie antérieure" was similarly evocative, while the Francis Poulenc cycle which followed--La fraicheur et le feu with text by Paul Éluard--represented a more modern and surrealistic idiom.  The poetry in French is quite lovely, far lovelier than the English translation.

The first part of the program closed with Maurice Ravel's "Kaddisch" from Deux mélodies hébraïques, sung in Hebrew.

The second half of the program was given over to a riveting performance of the monodrama La voix humaine, Poulenc's 1958 opera based upon Jean Cocteau's 1930 play of the same name.  This one-act one-character piece is a tour de force for the singer who must convey the wide range of emotions felt by the character  "Elle" as she speaks on the phone with her about-to-be-ex-lover.

Although one never knows what the man on the other end of the line is saying, we must draw our conclusions from the reactions of "Elle". At first she puts on a cheerful face but as the act progresses, she unravels in front of our eyes and ears, even confessing to an attempted suicide.  Anyone who has endured a broken romance would appreciate the text, given in short bursts of conversation.

Today we do not have party lines to interrupt our conversations but we do have cell phone batteries running down so we can make the leap to understand the character's frustration.

Ms. Antonacci's acting was memorable and effective, as it had been all evening.  It was truly astonishing. Her partnership with pianist Donald Sulzen was marked by sensitivity from one moment to the next.

There would be no encore.  The audience cheered and cheered to no avail. From the artists' perspective, we are sure that they were totally drained emotionally. From our perspective, the evening was complete and completely satisfying.

(c) meche kroop

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