|Kady Evanyshyn onstage at Paul Hall|
We have been writing about Kady Evanyshyn for at least five years and witnessing her growth as an artist. What we recognized from the very beginning was her gracious stage presence, engaging personality, and finely textured mezzo-soprano instrument. It took us longer to learn to pronounce her name than it took us to perceive her star potential. Some singers just stand out right away and we are not alone in recognizing this feature.
We have heard Ms. Evanyshyn in recital, singing everything from Monteverdi to Brahms, and have seen her perform in operas, notably Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor and in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. We have heard her in many languages as well. Perhaps what stands out for us most was her performance of Moussorgsky's Nursery Songs. She applies the same sense of drama developed on the operatic stage to her performance of art songs.
Last night we attended her Master of Music recital at Juilliard (that polisher of gems!) and had the opportunity to greet and share opinions with her teacher Edith Wiens. Both of us were thrilled.
The program she chose was an interesting one, marked by variety and adventure. Three chansons by Reynaldo Hahn opened the program. Although Hahn composed in the first half of the 20th c., his songs show a great respect for the past by virtue of their melodic delights and their themes. As we understand it, Ms. Evanyshyn auditioned for Juilliard with a Hahn song and saw its inclusion last night as a means of coming full circle.
"A Chloris" is a love song without a single dark note and perfectly suited to the singer's joy in singing. "L'énamourée", on the other hand, let us share the feeling of wanting to bring a dead lover back to life. "Fêtes galantes" is filled with charm like the Fragonard painting that springs to mind when we hear it. The works were performed in fine French with long lovely lines, just as Hahn intended. Collaborative pianist Bronwyn Schuman reflected the same joy in harking back to the past.
The next set was in German and we are pleased to report that the singer's German is just as good as her French. We found nothing to pick on! For the Strauss lieder, the always wonderful Chris Reynolds provided the piano collaboration. Two of our favorites bookended the set. In "Du meines herzens Krönelein" we loved the way Ms. Evanyshyn used different vocal coloration when the poet describes his beloved and when he describes other women.
The set ended with a passionate delivery of "Zueignung" that ended in a thrilling crescendo that filled Paul Hall with overtones. In between the two we heard "Die Georgine" (from the same Op. 10) in which the poet compares the autumn dahlia to his late blooming love. Mr. Reynolds captured the lush late Romantic harmonies.
Of the three Marc Blitzstein songs, our favorite was "Stay in my Arms". The text "Let's just be lazy; the world's gone crazy!" resonated with us. The other two were settings of text by e.e. cummings which look fine on the page but resemble Dada. It was quite an accomplishment for the singer to make sense out of what psychiatrist call "word salad". We don't know why Blitzstein chose to set them but...there they are.
The second half of the program found Ms. Evanyshyn "on the book" but we can understand why. Joseph Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne are written in a language unknown to us--Occitan. On the page the words are clearly from a branch of Romance languages but as different from French as is Portuguese.
Ms. Evanyshyn clearly demonstrated the humor of "Lou boussu" in which a hunchback courts a maiden without success. In "Oï ayaï" a woman refuses to get out of bed until her husband goes to the fair on several errands to buy her various articles of clothing. The verses repeat and repeat and our singer's facial expression showed us how the husband felt. The humor of both songs was good natured and sweet. For this set, the accompaniment was played by Jonathan Stauffer on the theorbo. He played as beautifully as he did yesterday at another Juilliard concert we reviewed. The choice of theorbo was a happy but unexpected one.
The program ended with a group of folk songs set by Luciano Berio in typical mid 20th c. modernism. The stage was filled with musicians: violist Lauren Siess, cellist Philip Sheegog, flutist Emily Duncan, clarinetist Nikki Pet (doubling on piccolo), harpist Deanna Cirielli, and percussionists Benjamin Cornavaca and Simon Herron.
Our curiosity made us want to inspect the panoply of percussion instruments. We heard some mighty strange sounds! The orchestration was interesting but, truth to tell, we might have preferred hearing Ms. Evanyshyn singing a capella! The modernism of the music did not seem to carry the simplicity of the folk songs.
Actually, the first two songs "Black is the Color" and "I Wonder as I Wander" are not folk songs but were composed by John Jacob Niles. The first was introduced by some harsh dissonance on the viola. Now what does that have to do with a man admiring his beloved?
"Loosin yelav" was sung in Armenian and included the piping of the piccolo.
"Rossignolet du bois" was sung in French and featured the clarinet.
"A la femminisca" was sung in the Sicilian dialect and had the feeling of a dirge.
"La donna ideale" was sung in ancient Genoese dialect whilst "Motettu de tristura" utilized Sardinian dialect and involved some rather eerie sounds. The nightingale was represented by the piccolo.
We recognized the Occitan dialect from the previous Auvergne set in the next two songs "Malurous qu'o uno fenno" and "Lo fiolaire". Both were filled with humor.
The set closed with "Azerbajian Love Song" which permitted our lovely singer the opportunity to indulge in some lovely melismatic singing and even a trill.
This was an opportunity and an adventure. We are unlikely to hear the work again. One of the advantages of being in a music conservatory is having such a variety of artists available for such events.
We have high hopes for Ms. Evanyshyn's future. We are sure that she will successfully bridge the gap between conservatory and professional life.
(c) meche kroop