|Laetitia Ruccolo, Kirsten Scott, Eugenia Forteza, and Matthan Black|
This was not your typical Christmas concert. It was more like an intimate gathering of friends. The salon setting in Williamsburg was comfortable and spacious. The material that was chosen seemed to be of a personal interest to the artists--songs remembered from childhood, songs popular in their country of birth, songs they loved.
Mezzo-soprano Kirsten Scott (Co-Founder of Bare Opera, along with Maître de Chant Laetitia Ruccolo) led off the evening's program with Martin and Blane's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". This is a song we've heard so often that it has bored us silly. But-- big but-- Ms. Scott made it new and fresh. We don't think we've ever enjoyed it as much, Ms. Scott having revealed more feeling than we've ever observed--and without a whiff off "cross-over" condescension.
The versatile Ms. Scott gave a stirring rendition of "Chacun à son goût" from Johann Strauss II's. Die Fledermaus. We believe the first time we heard her perform this was a few years ago with Martina Arroyo's Prelude to Performance. We enjoyed it so much we hope that she keeps it as an encore piece. We loved the way she wandered among the guests and engaged them, truly immersing herself in the part of Prince Orlovsky.
Soprano Claire de Monteil, who is new to us, thrilled us with a truly Gallic "La Vie en Rose". She is the recipient of an award from Opera Index and we hope to hear her gorgeous voice at the gala in January.
She also performed along with baritone Sungwook Kim in Adolphe Adam's "O Holy Night" creating a spiritual mood in direct contrast with Prince Orlovsky's party song. We heard verses sung in the original French (our favorite), in Korean, and in well enunciated English. When we heard the phrase "the weary world" it truly resonated with us.
Mr. Kim also gave us an excellent "Every Valley" from Händel's Messiah with a very spirited accompaniment from Ms. Ruccolo on the keyboard. Every word was clear, a situation we never take for granted. He showed off a flexible instrument and a truly excellent trill.
Mezzo-soprano Inbar Goldmann delighted us with a Hebrew song about miracles and struggles called "Shivchi Maoz" in celebration of Hannukah, showing a lot of strength in her lower register.
Although the Sephardic tradition is not her own, you never would have guessed it from her charming performance of "Ocho Kandelikas" in Ladino, the language of Spanish Jews. We could actually understand the words! Her performance of "Avraham Avinu" got the audience clapping and stamping their feet. What we liked the best was the Andalus mode in the accompaniment.
She also sang "A Piece of Sky" from Michel Legrand's Yentl.
Soprano Eugenia Forteza contributed songs from her homeland of Argentina, where, we learned, the dialect of Spanish is Castellano, pronounced in the typical Argentinian fashion with "j" sound for the "ll", instead of the "y" sound.
We enjoyed Guastavino's "Hermano", a song about community, and a delightful childhood song "Caballito Criollo", both delivered with beautiful tone, sazon, and a fine vibrato.
Matthan Black accompanied himself on guitar for "I'll Be Home for Christmas". Mr. Black comes from Arkansas where people gather together and make music. We like the little riff of "Jingle Bells" he inserted toward the end.
Irving Berlin's "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" was performed in three part harmony by Ms. Scott, Ms. Forteza, and Mr. Black, sounding as fine as we've ever heard it sung.
The entertainment part of the evening concluded with a rousing "Libiamo" from Verdi's La Traviata which definitely put us in a celebratory mood.
Lately we have been realizing the unique pleasures of song salons given in casual environments. We listened, we drank wine, we ate cookies. We walked out onto the rainy streets of Williamsburg completely satisfied. Thanks Bare Opera!
(c) meche kroop