|Juan Lázaro, Katrin Bulke, Darrell Lauer, and Keith Milkie at St. John's in the Village|
The glamorous coloratura soprano Katrin Bulke first came to our attention a year and a half ago when she appeared through the auspices of the German Forum. We were highly impressed (review available through search bar) and wondered when we would have the opportunity to hear her again. Our wish was granted last night when we heard her debut solo recital in the United States, right here in New York City in the lovely church St. John's in the Village, a church renowned for supporting the arts.
Ms. Bulke curated the program herself, choosing material that would show off her artistry and versatility. She also chose a couple guest artists, one at the beginning of a promising career and one approaching the end of a successful one. As accompanist she chose Juan Lázaro, one of our favorite collaborative pianist whose graduate studies are at Manhattan School of Music with Maestro Tom Muraco, whom we absolutely cherish. She could not have made a better choice.
In this "mostly Mozart" evening we renewed our acquaintance with several of Mozart's heroines for whom this operatic genius composed gorgeous melodic arias; Mozart's writing for the opera has its own characteristic stamp but also individually reflects much about the character for whom he is writing. Ms. Bulke used her vocal and dramatic assets well to illuminate each character. With consummate versatility, she was able to create several characters in the same opera!
Take for example, Die Zauberflöte. Could any three characters be more different than the sweet innocent Pamina, the winsome Papagena, and the vitriolic Queen of the Night? And yet each character was limned by means of vocal color and gesture. "Der Hölle Rache" with its high-lying tessitura was the aria that so riveted our attention at the German Forum; the perfect accuracy of the coloratura passages and the brilliance of her upper register have only improved with time.
Pamina's "Ach, ich fühl's" was delivered with pathos and for the "Pa-pa-pa-pa" duet she enlisted young baritone Keith Milkie who came to our attention through Vocal Productions New York. The two artists had a wonderful flirtatious rapport.
The same pair were completely different in "Là ci darem la mano" with Ms. Bulke's ambivalence in counterpoint with Mr. Milkie's seductiveness.
We also heard Mr. Milkie in a solo aria from Le Nozze di Figaro-"Se vuol ballare". This promising baritone has an acting background and certainly got Figaro's intentions across.
Ms. Bulke again showed her versatility by performing the Countess' aria "Dove sono" with dignity and despair but with a change of color for the hopeful ending. Susanna's final aria "Deh vieni, non tardar" gave full attention to Susanna's loving deception of her husband. She would deal effectively with male jealousy right from the start!
There were more goodies on the program including Donna Anna's "Non mi dir" from Don Giovanni; her interpretation was one of sincerity. There was also a duet "Fuggi, crudele" with veteran tenor Darrell Lauer portraying the devoted Don Ottavio a role we are sure he has sung many times before since he also sang "Il mio tesoro", winning a big hand from the audience.
The lesser known Die Entführung aus dem Serail has two female roles and Ms. Bulke gave us Blonde's advice to Osmin "Durch Zärtlichkeit" as well as Konstanze's killer aria of firmness of character "Martern aller Arten". This comic singspiel shows us the lighter side of Mozart's genius and Mr. Lázaro showed us some gorgeous playing in the extended piano introduction to Kostanze's aria.
We applaud Ms. Bulke for her expressive melismatic singing and the crystalline texture of her instrument, especially revealed in the concert aria "Exultate, Jubilate".
There was even an encore in which Mr. Lauer joined Ms. Bulke for the "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata. At this point we noticed how differently Mr. Lázaro colored the piano for Verdi's very different writing.
It was a splendid evening in a fine venue with great acoustics. Music lovers would do well to check out the varied musical programs at St. John's in the Village, the garden of which was employed for a lovely post-concert reception.
(c) meche kroop