|Elad Kabilio and Kirsten Scott at Interface|
Elad Kabilio's "Music Talks" are designed to break down the barriers between musicians and audience. Guests at the comfortable Interface on 30th St. are invited to get a drink, to sit on comfortable sofas in an informal arrangement, to learn from the lively and knowledgeable Mr. Kabilio, and then to listen in a new way.
Last night's theme, part of Women in the Arts Festival, was a celebration of Women's History Month and paid tribute to the strong heroines of opera. The liberation we take for granted today was not always the case and these operatic heroines were ground breaking exemplars.
A most interesting feature of the evening was the choice of artists. Mezzo-soprano Kirsten Scott and maître de chant Laetitia Ruccolo are two strong women themselves who got together and formed Bare Opera, an alternative female-run opera company that utilizes unusual spaces to present fresh takes on opera--immersive and intimate. Ms. Scott is Artistic Director and Ms. Ruccolo is Music Director. We have been writing about them for about 3 years. We love what they do.
Mr. Kabilio interviewed Ms. Ruccolo about her role at the piano. She doesn't like the phrase "collaborative pianist" and prefers the French title "maître de chant" to express her wide ranging work in coaching singers, preparing the program, and multiple other tasks. Ms. Scott was given the opportunity to describe each operatic heroine about whom she was singing. The two women selected the arias to be performed.
We are not sure what the compelling Ms. Scott sang at her Carnegie Hall debut last weekend but everything she sang last night was stellar. The program opened with "Cruda sorte" from Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri. Isabella is a strong woman who goes off to Algiers to rescue her lover. The delivery was superb.
Rossini loved his strong female roles, mostly mezzo-sopranos. We have heard Ms. Scott on a prior occasion singing "Una voce poco fa" from Il Barbiere di Siviglia and we loved the way she handled the various sections of the aria and limned Rosina's character through the fioritura. The performance has only gotten better with even more attention to the details of her personality. As she explained, this is an "entrance aria" meant to establish the character. She added that Rosina "keeps me on my toes".
From Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, she sang the sad aria "When I am laid in earth", explaining that Dido's strength was not one of accomplishment but an inner reserve that helped her face death fearlessly.
Strength of character is also exhibited by Charlotte in Massenet's Werther and Ms. Scott gave us a lovely performance of "Va! Laisse couler mes larmes" which illustrates the manner in which a tearful catharsis allows women to be strong. She not only captured Charlotte's character but did so with long melodic lines.
Mezzo-sopranos are often called upon to sing en travesti, and Bellini gave the part of Romeo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi to a mezzo. We enjoyed hearing Romeo's aria "Deh tu, bell'anima" in which Ms. Scott used her vibrato to express the character's grief when he believes Juliet to be dead.
In Les Contes d'Hoffman, the hero's muse assumes the identity of a friend Nicklausse who must be strong where Hoffman is weak; she extricates him from some hairy situations. We heard Ms. Scott perform the "Violin Aria" and it took us back to 2013 when she performed this role with Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance. Again, she has only refined the character.
Similarly, we reviewed her Cherubino in 2013 and remember well how persuasive she was in the role, exhibiting all of the character's anxiety and energy. It was a pleasure to revisit "Voi che sapete" from Mozart's Nozze di Figaro and we enjoyed hearing her tell the audience some of the excitement and challenges of singing en travesti.
Before bringing out the big guns for Carmen, the stage was turned over to the lovely cellist Laura Metcalf who played Hollman's Carmen Fantasy for Cello and Piano. Mr. Kabilio explained the function of these "fantasies" as a means of bringing the operas into the home in an era before radio, TV, CD's and internet. Ms. Metcalf and Ms. Ruccolo played beautifully together and yes, all the big tunes were heard within ten minutes.
Concluding the program were selections from Bizet's opera. The strength of Carmen is undeniable. She lived and died on her own terms--fiercely and fearlessly. We heard the "Seguidilla", the "Habanera", and "En vain pour eviter" from the card-reading scene. All were vocally splendid and dramatically affecting.
This was the perfect evening to have introduced newbie friends to opera.
(c) meche kroop