The Song Continues and Marilyn Horne will make sure of it! Working tirelessly to pass along her knowledge to the younger generation, our beloved mezzo-soprano celebrates her birthday every year by hosting a festive week of recitals and master classes. Last night, lieder lovers were gifted with a double-header--first a recital by soprano Karen Vuong and piano partner Ken Noda, then a master class taught by Ms. Horne herself.
Ms. Vuong is an engaging performer capable of involving the audience, no matter what she sings and Mr. Noda is the most modest of piano partners, always supportive of the singer. Together they wowed the audience with a trio of chansons in French by Reynaldo Hahn, a quartet of lieder in German by Hugo Wolf, three songs in English by Samuel Barber, three in Russian by Rachmaninoff, and to close the program, four in German by Richard Strauss. For the encore, Ms. Vuong repeated Hahn's "Sous l'oranger" as if written by a woman. The tango rhythm and Ms. Vuong's flirtatious manner made for a compelling contrast. Hahn's light-hearted delicate songs contrasted well with the serious and anxious nature of Wolf's Mignon songs.
The passionate romanticism of the Rachmaninoff songs came through beautifully, but it was in the Strauss songs that Ms. Vuong's bright, clear and focused soprano was able to soar. She was completely believable as the proud mother in "Muttertänderlei" and quite amusing in "Hat gesagt--bleibt's nicht dabei". One tiny flaw needs to be addressed. Ms. Vuong seems to hang onto the piano and to do most of the acting with her arms and face. Should she let go and allow herself to use her entire body, the performance would be improved.
After an hour break, the master class began with some very kind and loving words by Ms. Horne. Four young singers were coached in one song apiece, which made a lot more sense than skimming over two selections. Mezzo-soprano Naomi O'Connell did some fine work on Schumann's amusing "Die Kartenlegerin"; tenor J. Warren Mitchell opened up his huge voice with Liszt's "Pace non trovo"; Mezzo-soprano Jazimina MacNeil tackled Mahler's folksy "Rheinlegendchen"; soprano Lisa Williamson sang Joseph Haydn's "She never told her love". It was thrilling to observe how Ms. Horne's coaching added a new dimension to each artist's performance.
More recitals and master classes await, with a gala concert Saturday night. More we could not ask!
(c) meche kroop
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