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, January 22, 2016


Clarissa Lyons (photo by Marielle Hayes)

Miles Mykkanen (photo by Kristin Hoebermann)

Thursday night's Spotlight recital featured two fine young singers, both of them in collaboration with the wonderful pianist Ken Noda. The recital is part of the Marilyn Horne legacy at Carnegie Hall. The program, part of the week-long The Song Continues, was filled with delights.

Soprano Clarissa Lyons is new on our radar screen but tenor Miles Mykkanen has been delighting our ears for several years as he pursued his training at Juilliard.  The Divine Mr. M. is always full of surprises, tackling unusual material or presenting old songs in new ways. Thursday night there was no gender bending, which we have enjoyed when he sings with New York Festival of Song.

Mr. M. is always a compelling performer and has a unique sound that is distinctive and memorable; the quality of the vibrato lends a textural richness. The tone is sustained right through the lower register.

He sang five songs from Benjamin Britten's On This Island and sang them with perfect English diction, a rare quality indeed. Britten will never be among our favorite song composers but we certainly did enjoy this particular performance, particularly the despairing "Now the leaves are falling fast" and "As it is, plenty" in which Mr. M. was able to exhibit his passionate intensity. In "Seascape" he painted with words and handled the rapid notes of "Nocturne" with aplomb.

We were far more enthusiastic about his trio of Schumann songs--the bittersweet "Des Sennen Abschied" was our favorite.  His German is impeccable. Mr. Noda's pianism was thrilling, especially in the arpeggios of "Requiem".

The final set comprised three songs by Grieg and it was here that we enjoyed ourselves the most. "Takk for dit råd" expresses the strong impulse toward freedom which Norwegians associate with the sea. Mr. M. captured the essence of the text.

He introduced the song "En svane" with a sad and romantic tale about the poetry and the "fact" that swans only sing when they die. Mr. Noda's playing here added so greatly to the depth of feeling. But his final song "En drøm" filled us with the joy of love achieved and passionately appreciated. What a performance!

Soprano Clarissa Lyons filled the stage with beauty. Her statuesque presence reminds one of a Modigliani painting. Her voice is a lovely one with a diamantine sparkle. We were pleased to hear two songs by Joseph Marx, a composer of whom we do not hear enough. "Ständchen" was given a convincing delivery and "Selige Nacht" had some lovely word coloring to delight the ear.

We heard three songs by Poulenc, settings of surrealistic poetry by Louise Lalanne. "Le présent" and "Chanson" were of a whimsical nature but "Hier" was filled with longing. It was a fine way to show off the singer's versatility.

Next we heard a pair of songs by Rachmaninoff--"A Dream" and "Au!", which comes to an end without resolution. We loved Ms. Lyon's involvement in the text.

Her final set comprised two selections from Barber's Hermit Songs--"Saint Ita's Vision" and "The Desire for Hermitage". We have often heard them but cannot love them. We did love the way she sang them however, with deep commitment.

Both singers collaborated on an encore which sent us out smiling--Bernstein's "Wrong Note Rag".  This was the only wrong note in a wonderful recital. So much ground to cover in an hour! But the artists made every minute count.

(c) meche kroop

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