|Nicole Thomas, Gregory Feldmann, Matthew Pearce, Kathryn Henry, Dominik Belavy, and Myka Murphy celebrating the 80th birthdays of William Bolcom and John Corigliano|
It was quite a party, celebrating two elder "statesmen" of the music world with Steven Blier as host. New York Festival of Song collaborates annually with The Juilliard School for a special evening, giving graduate students of the Vocal Arts Department a chance to stretch themselves, cross some boundaries, and have some fun.
It was the fun numbers that we enjoyed the most. Take for example the closing number of the first part of the program which was devoted to the works of John Corigliano. The sure directorial hand of Mary Birnbaum was felt in "Liebeslied" when the simple repetition of the common phrase "I love you" was repeated in endless variety, each iteration carrying its own message as interpreted by various groupings of the six singers. For us, it was the highlight of the evening.
Similarly, the encore--William Bolcom's "Amor"--was performed by the ensemble, giving each woman an opportunity to revel in the fantasy of commanding the attention of an entire small town. We have often heard and enjoyed this song as an encore, but never heard it performed by a group!
Oh, those women! Kathryn Henry lent her stunning soprano to "Otherwise" from Bolcom's Briefly it Enters; this is a simple song about the ephemeral nature of life and the fleeting nature of its bounty. Jane Kenyon's text was pithy and moving, and the piano accompaniment had a searching quality.
We also enjoyed the simplicity of her delivery in "Forever Young" from Corigliano's setting of text by Bob Dylan. Much of it was sung a capella or with minimal accompaniment and she made every word clear, which we truly appreciate.
Mezzo-soprano Myka Murphy grabbed the audience's attention and held it firmly from start to finish in "At the Last Lousy Moments of Love" from Bolcom's Cabaret Songs. All the bitterness of the text came through because of her clear enunciation; not a word was missed.
Mezzo-soprano Nicole Thomas was memorable in "Marvelous Invention" from John Corigliano's Metamusic. It's been a long time since the iPod was the thing to own; each generation has its own way of listening to music but the threatened replacement of live music with "portable instant listening devices" is a hot topic. The prop was supplied by Steve Blier from his personal collection!
The singers were accompanied by Mr. Blier and by Chris Reynolds who never fails to delight. His piano perfectly limned the sound of chimes in "Chimes of Freedom", Corigliano's setting of text by Bob Dylan from Mr. Tambourine Man.
Getting to the men on the program, baritone Gregory Feldmann had the responsibility of singing the world premiere of Mr. Corigliano's song cycle Rhymes for the Irreverent. Our favorite among this group was "The Odds-on Favorite" which he performed with ample gesture and plenty of personality. "Critical" brought the challenge of a very low register which he met successfully. We loved his melismatic singing on the word "bloom" in "One Sweet Morning".
Baritone Dominik Belavy showed his acting chops several times in the evening. In "Dodecaphonia", Corigliano makes fun of 12-tone music and Mr. Belavy, suitably costumed, portrayed a detective tracking down the notorious "serial" criminal Twelve-Tone Rose. Mark Adamo's text was quite clever.
Tenor Matthew Pearce made a perfect permissive priest hearing the sexy confession of Nicole Thomas in "His Manner is Gentle" from Bolcom's Lucrezia. Accompanied by the fine guitarist Jack Gulielmetti, he sang "Soneto de la dulce queja" from Bolcom's Canciones de Lorca. We were glad that the got off the book for "El poeta llega a la Habana" with it's spirited rhythms which got the entire ensemble dancing.
The evening ended with a love fest among the singers and the venerable composers--lots of balloons and hugs and audience appreciation. Another fabulous night at Juilliard!
(c) meche kroop