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.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Emalie Savoy
Anthony Dean Griffey
The Morgan Library has a comfortable recital hall that lends itself beautifully to the vocal arts--just the right size to insure intimacy and blessed with fine acoustics.  Yesterday's recital, in collaboration with The George London Foundation for Singers, featured the esteemed tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, rising star soprano Emalie Savoy and beloved piano partner Ken Noda.

It isn't every day that one gets to hear such a wide variety of early 20th c. music on a recital program and the contrast was rather amazing. The Banalités of Francis Poulenc are settings of poetry by Apollinaire and seem influenced by dadaism.  Ms. Savoy captured the varying moods with presence and charm, but not always the clearest diction.  We especially enjoyed her dancing around the stage in "Voyage à Paris".  This is an artist who has learned to relax over the past couple years to the delight of her audience.

The silly nature of these songs contrasted sharply with the serious nature of Samuel Barber's settings of texts by James Joyce.  As is common in 20th c. music, the most interesting writing takes place in the piano part, rather than the vocal part.  Nonetheless, Mr. Griffey with his beautifully colored voice made excellent sense of the text.  "I hear an army charging upon the land" opens with some stentorian verses and ends in agony and despair.  Mr. Griffey aims for a Mid-Atlantic accent, neither British nor American.  This is most pronounced in the "a" sound.

"Jimmy's aria" from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill allowed Mr. Griffey to show another side of his interpretive chops.  This jazzy score, attacked with relish by the versatile Mr. Noda, is meant to satirize opera and reveals yet another aspect of early 20th c. music.  The aria, libretto by Berthold Brecht, is an intense display of bitterness and despair.  We wondered how it might sound in German.  We had ample opportunity to admire Mr. Griffey's German in two of our favorite Schubert lieder from Schwanengesang, D. 957--"Liebesbotschaft" and "Ständchen".

Ms. Savoy contributed "Bella mia Fiamma, addio!" by Mozart and "Le perfide Renaud me fuit" from Gluck's Armide.  At times Ms. Savoy pushes her high notes giving them a strained sound.  We trust that she is working on this detail and look forward to hearing her float them.

Mr. Griffey opened the program with three songs by John Dowland from the late 16th or early 17th c., settings of anonymous texts.  What is remarkable about these songs is that what Dowland wrote follows the rhythm of the English language while engaging the ear with melody, something rarely seen in 20th c. vocal writing, except on Broadway.  A closing duet by both artists gave a fine illustration of that point with George Gershwin's "Let's call the whole thing off" from Shall We Dance;  we were so charmed that we did not protest the absence of an encore.

(c) meche kroop

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