|Babette Hierholzer, Robert Osborne, Lydia Ciaputa, and Conor Chinitz
We were trying to figure out why we were lately hearing so much music related to the character of Don Quixote and learned that this is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Part II of Miguel Cervantes' masterpiece. This figure has inspired choreographers and composers since the work was published. Obviously the word "quixotic" came from the eponymous character.
Last night in the grand hall of The Hispanic Society, against a backdrop of centuries of Spanish art, bass-baritone Robert Osborne brought this character to musical life in an involving and ultimately moving program which he conceived and created--a program entitled Don Quixote in Music.
The first part of the program was devoted to the 1712 cantata by Jean-Baptiste Morin entitled Dom Quixotte which Mr. Osborne sang in French, so clearly enunciated that we understood every word. Accompanied by violinist Judson Griffin playing an instrument as old as the Cervantes' work (!), cellist David Bakamjian, and harpsichordist Alexandra Snyder Dunbar, his rich voice was well employed in the descriptive recitativi,
The arias, on the other hand, seemed to be the very words spoken by Don Q. Following a lovely theme in the violin, the section "Mort de Dom Quixotte" seemed to be in march tempo. The sad effects were achieved by color without a trace of sentimentality.
The second half of the program was more dramatic as Mr. Osborne was assisted into some very authentic appearing armor and cape by Sancho Panza, portrayed by Conor Chinitz. When he donned the helmet and picked up the halberd, he looked astonishingly like Don Q. himself. With his sharply chiseled features he cut a fine figure.
Alternating works by several composers, both vocal and instrumental, followed a line from the hero's departure through to his death. Interestingly none of the works were written in Spanish although some Spanish composers have composed such works.
We greatly enjoyed the early 20th c. songs by Jacques Ibert, particularly the "Chanson du départ" which had a distinctly Spanish flavor, as did his lovely "Chanson à Dulcinée".
Maurice Ravel's "Chanson à boire" lent a note of comic relief. It's a rowdy song we never tire of hearing and it was fun seeing our hero passing out on the floor. In contrast, Mr. Osborne delivered the moving and spiritual "Chanson épique" on his knees in prayerful pose.
Selections from Jules Massenet's late opera, the 1910 Don Quichotte, a comédie-héroïque, included the "Sérénade de Don Quichotte" in which accompanying pianist Babette Hierholzer effectively brought out the octave tremoli. The final scene of his death was most effectively rendered in "Écoute, mon ami, je me sens bien malade". Although she appeared only briefly as Dulcinée, singing from the balcony above, soprano Lydia Ciaputa sounded ethereal while Conor Chinitz sounded earthy as Sancho Panza.
The only music that didn't seem to advance the plot much was that composed by the 11-year-old Erich Wolfgang Korngold. There was nothing about these instrumental pieces that seemed related to the story but they did give evidence of the success that lay down the road and, more importantly, let us enjoy the fine playing of Ms. Hierholzer.
This was the second time this week that we have enjoyed a work created to tell a story, using a pastiche of music.(See review entitled Discovering Mrs. Rossini.). It is a marvelous genre, one which we thoroughly enjoyed and hope to hear more of.
As we exited the gorgeous Hispanic Society building we smiled at the statue of our hero casting a shadow on the wall
(c) meche kroop