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.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Christopher Reynolds and Christopher Dylan Herbert

There was a great deal to admire in baritone Christopher Dylan Herbert's doctoral recital at Juilliard; there wasn't much to enjoy.  There we said it! We have probably made ourself out to be of philistine taste. The story we are telling ourself is that this gifted artist was bored with the standard repertory, not having found sufficient challenge therein. So, as the scholar he is, he had to dig deeply for some obscure material that would provide the challenge he needed. That is our story.

Consequently, he constructed a program that was difficult to learn and difficult to interpret and very difficult to listen to.  Apparently Benjamin Britten, of whom we have been hearing a great deal lately, perceived the Songs and Proverbs of William Blake as an exercise in serialism. The program contained a great deal of academic information on 12-tone rows that went way over our head.

We listen to music for sensual pleasure or to access deep feeling, which we did not get from most of the program, not from the Britten, not from the Whitman Songs by Laura Kaminsky, not from the ugliness of War Scenes by Ned Rorem, not even from Bernstein's "To What You Said..." from his Songfest.

It was only at the end when Mr. Herbert performed All the Way Through Evening that we were able to enjoy our sad feelings. The cycle by Chris DeBlasio is a setting of poetry by Perry Brass and relates to the AIDS crisis and death. The sorrow of those losses relate on a very personal level which, paradoxically, becomes universal.

Part of the grief we felt at the recital was for the loss of the composer who died too young. His music is sensitive and beautiful and illumined Mr. Brass' wonderful poetry. And Mr. Herbert's vocal and interpretive artistry could finally be appreciated. We were glad we "stuck it out" for those special moments.

Needless to say, Christopher Reynolds turned in his usual powerful performance on the piano and there was a lovely contribution from cellist Hélène Werner.

(c) meche kroop

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