We are gluttons for vocal music! We were feeling totally satisfied by a superb George London Foundation concert at The Morgan Library and yet...and yet we could not pass up the opportunity to hear the lovely mezzo-soprano Alanna Fraize for what could be the last time for a couple years. Students we love at the local conservatories graduate and enter young artist programs around the country and around the world. We lose sight of them for awhile and have only our memories to hold onto until they return. And by then they are usually famous!
We have followed Ms. Fraize for a few years, both at Manhattan School of Music and in her performances with A.R.E. Opera (now City Lyric Opera). We have reviewed her Mozart, Rossini, Delibes, and Puccini. How could we not witness her final recital at MSM!
With that in mind we rushed up to Manhattan School of Music, rain-soaked and wind-blown. We were rewarded with some outstanding performances, our favorite of which was Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Although usually sung by a baritone, it is not unheard of for a woman to perform it. Indeed, Ms. Fraize has as deep a feeling for Mahler as a performer as we have as a listener.
The poet witnesses the marriage of the beloved to someone else. He (the actual translation of "Geselle" is "journeyman"--a step above an apprentice) endures the grief of loss, the consolation of nature (at first rejected but ultimately accepted) and finally comes to some kind of peace with himself. This offers the performer all kinds of opportunities to express grief, despair, suffering, and resolution. Whether Mahler first wrote it for voice and piano or voice and orchestra is debatable but there is no doubt that the evocative melodies appear in his symphonies.
Hearing Ms. Fraize's dramatic interpretation with all manner of vocal coloration justified our mad dash uptown. But that wasn't the only gem on the program. As much as we love Verdi's operas, we are enchanted by his songs. The fine vibrato Ms. Fraize employed suited the songs very well. We love the indifference of the singer in "Stornello" in contrast with the deprecating attitude toward the neglectful lover in "Non t'accostare all'urna". "Keep your damn flowers", she says. "Where were you when I needed you". ("You tell him sister", we were thinking.)
There was a set of songs by composers who wrote for film in the mid 20th c. Our favorite in this group was Nino Rota's "Come stai? Hai dormito?" from I due timidi which we enjoyed so much last winter at MSM.
The program closed with Jake Heggie's cycle Paper Wings, which was commissioned by Frederica von Stade who composed the lyrics. The work premiered in 1997. We enjoyed Ms. Fraize's storytelling and personality in "Paper Wings". We also liked the bluesy "A Route to the Sky" in which we heard strains of Beethoven's "Für Elise" in the piano of Ms. Fraize's excellent coach/accompanist Nobuko Amemiya.
It was a lovely recital and there was a very special encore in which the singer's mother accompanied her singing "Song for Newfoundland" by Wayne Chaulk. Imagine all these years, all those reviews, and we never knew that Ms. Fraize comes from Newfoundland! Let's have a big round of applause for Newfies!
(c) meche kroop