|Natalia Suriano and Gonzalo Llanes Mena
Having just reviewed a recital of young singers from Argentina, we were very much in the mood to hear even more Argentinean music; so last night we showed up at the Consulate General of Argentina for a recital by two young artists from Argentina. This pair, unlike the visiting artists of the prior evening, are studying here in New York at the Manhattan School of Music.
The program was not operatic but rather composed of art songs and the audience comprised mainly Argentineans who were over the moon hearing songs of their homeland. If anyone but us was troubled by the singer's use of a music stand, one would never have known about it.
When the otherwise engaging tenor Gonzalo Llanes Mena looked at the audience we felt the connection that we so enjoy that makes a song come to life. But every time he looked down at his score, that connection was broken. It was a short recital, just an hour, and we couldn't understand the reason for not memorizing the songs, since none of the works were modern or esoteric. Just sayin'!
Mr. LLanes Mena engaged the audience by explaining each song in his own inimitable and humorous style in charmingly accented English; this served to include audience members whose Spanish is less than fluent.
His sound is a sweet one but not a slight one, and he had the "garlic" to get across Tosti's "A vucchella", after explaining that Tosti loved all kind of women and this song about a dried-up flower was written about an elderly woman!
His German diction was fine in "Bist du bei mir", attributed to Bach but likely written by Stölzel; he certainly did not neglect the correct pronunciation of the "ch" sound. We wish we could say the same thing about his French diction in Reynaldo Hahn's "A Chloris" but we cannot; the even French line was nowhere to be found and several nasal vowels were mispronounced.
One cannot blame singers not born and raised in the USA for wanting to sing Broadway songs but they just sound peculiar to our ears when sung with a foreign accent. We wonder what the native born French think of our American singers when they sing in French! Actually, we don't wonder; we've been told that the French singing that we found acceptable was NOT music to French ears!
In any case, "Be My Love" (Brodzsky/Cahn) was on the program and our game tenor was joined by an excellent soprano, Anna Mayo, and they gave it their all. We do love good harmony and enjoyed the performance. Ms. Mayo has a brilliant voice and a smooth portamento that we admired.
Lerner and Loew's "On the Street Where You Live" was given a charming introduction and gave the superb collaborative pianist Natalia Suriano an elaborate piano arrangement into which she could sink her teeth, or rather her fingers.
It was no small delight that Ms. Suriano provided a piano solo of great distinction--selections from Enrique Granados' Escenas románticas. Our favorite of the three was the "Mazurca". Perhaps it was only the rhythm that evoked our feeling but we would be surprised if Granados had not learned a great deal from Chopin's music.
Her playing of this melodic music was highly expressive and her fleet fingers met all the technical demands of the devilishly difficult "Lento con éxtasis".
The remainder of the program comprised popular songs of Argentina, likely from the 20th c. Our tenor sported a handsome poncho and ingratiatingly explained its usefulness. We particularly liked "Cuesta abajo" (Gardel/LePera), a tango from a film of the 1930's with the same title.
Suitable for this pre-Halloween week was "Zamba para la viuda", a ghost story which Mr. Llanes Mena explained for the audience.
We were fortunate to hear more from the songwriting team of Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera--the encore piece "Mi Buenos Aires Querido" in the tango rhythm for which that song writing team is famous. It was at this point that the packed house went wild with enthusiasm. We tried to imagine being an expat and hearing singers from the USA singing Broadway numbers.
No, there were no zarzuela arias but we left satisfied that we learned more about Argentinean song.
(c) meche kroop