We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, August 27, 2023


 Dura Jun and Georgina Wu

What a satisfying recital we heard last night at the Bruno Walter Auditorium of Lincoln Center! What makes a recital so satisfying? It isn't just a beautiful voice; it isn't just fine technique; it isn't just a sensitive collaborative pianist; it isn't just a variety of languages and periods; it isn't just rapport with the audience.  It is all of the above added together in a rich stew of musical delights.

Georgina Wu is a fine mezzo-soprano and Dura Jun is an equally fine collaborative pianist; the pair showed evidence of pre-program planning and true collaboration to capture the essence of each aria. Consummate versatility was demonstrated by the inclusion of German, French, Italian, and English. Musical periods ranged from early 18th c. to 21st c. with the fortunate inclusion of bel canto, our favorite period. The program was well curated to show off Ms. 
Wu's unique gifts.

The opening was a strong one--"Wie du warst" from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier-- with Ms. Wu capturing all of the juvenile passion of  the love-besotted and lusty young Count Rofrano--sung in excellent German. 

Next we enjoyed hearing a thrilling bel canto aria, the opening aria of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux in which Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, tries to hide her sorrow over her adulterous love for the title character.

Poor Charlotte is also suffering from an adulterous love in Jules Massenet's Werther but in "Va! Laisse couler mes larmes" she is releasing all the sorrow that Sara had to hide from the court in the aforementioned "All'afflitto è dolce il pianto".

What a contrast with Dorabella's fiery "Smanie implacabili" from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. What Ms. Wu succeeded in getting across is the histrionics of a young woman who is taking herself very seriously. The wild vocal line did not daunt Ms. Wu!

We know very little about the 21st c. work on the program--"Penelope" by Cecilia Livingston who is composer-in-residence at the Canadian Opera Company. It was far more appealing than the boring 21st c. art songs set to prosy texts.  In this song, Penelope's text is written (by the composer herself) in short phrases that successfully convey the emotions of the woman waiting for Ulysses from Homer's The Odyssey. We actually enjoyed the music, both piano and vocal line, and found the internal rhymes somewhat reminiscent of Sondheim's texts.

In "Ah! Michele don't you know" from Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleeker Street, a "fallen woman" is begging her lover to acknowledge her and take her into a local wedding reception attended by neighbors who have scorned her. We enjoyed being introduced to a work we have never heard and hope that we will hear it soon. We were thinking of Santuzza's rejection back in the "old country".

"Come nube che fugge dal vento" from Händel's Agrippina gave Ms. Wu the opportunity to exhibit some vocal fireworks as Nerone decides to abandon love for politics. Turns and trills and leaps and scale passages were all finely executed.

Equally outstanding was "Près des remparts de Séville" from Bizet's Carmen which Ms. Wu sang with enticing seductiveness, toying with the clueless Don Jose.  We have heard this aria countless times but Ms. Wu made it new again with an unusual flair.

From seduction to spirituality? No challenge for Ms. Wu who shifted gears for the musically spare "The Desire for Hermitage" from Barber's Hermit Songs. What was unusual about her delivery was that she conveyed a kind of sensuality within asceticism.

Capping the program was another aria by Donizetti, this one the famous "O, mio Fernando" from La Favorita in which Leonora expresses her complex feeling toward the man she loves who has been ordered to marry her, unaware that she has been the King's mistress. That's a lot of feeling for the singer to pack into one aria but Ms. Wu succeeded as she did with everything else on the program.

We would have problems trying to curate such a fine program with so much variety. The next time a mezzo-soprano complains to us that there is nothing great written for them, we will show them this program!

© meche kroop

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