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.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Lei Xu
The good news is that soprano Lei Xu gave a wonderful recital last night, presented by the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.  The bad news is that we had to miss the set of Chinese folk songs and the Spanish songs in order to review Paul Appleby's recital.  But that's another story.  In spite of her glamorous appearance Ms. Xu is an unfussy performer who commands the stage without excessive gesture.  Her poised presentation and focused sound made every song a miniature gem; she scaled her sound to the size of the room and conveyed a feeling of warmth and intimacy.

Accompanied by the equally talented Nimrod David Pfeffer, she opened her program with five selections from La Bonne Chanson by Gabriel Fauré.  Our favorite selection was "J'ai presque peur, en vérité" when her voice opened up to the sentiment of a lover's passion.  Mr. Pfeffer's piano made the most of the rippling arpeggios in "Puisque l'aube grandit" and the birdsong in "Avant que tu ne t'en ailles".  The major/minor shifts in "La lune blanche luit dans les bois" were delightful.

For the set of songs by Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexandra Naumenko assumed the role of accompanist and imbued the songs with the appropriate Russian flavor.  In "The Rose enslaves the Nightingale", Ms. Xu showed off the brilliant top of her register and in "Clearer than the singing of the lark", she negotiated the rapid-fire pace with grand style.  What a lot of consonants to speed through!

The centerpiece and highlight of the recital was Schubert's "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" in which clarinetist Weixiong Wang contributed a singing clarinet line that melded perfectly with Bryan Wagorn's always lovely piano work and Ms. Xu's graceful singing; she mastered the wide jumps which resembled yodeling and the clarinet mastered the echo effect.  The dramatic mood change when the shepherd-poet anticipates the coming of Spring truly resonated with us.  This brought the audience to their collective feet.  What a treat!

Following was Debussy's Ariettes oubliées and we felt fortunate to enjoy the languorous mood of "C'est l'extase" created by Ms. Xu and Mr. Wagorn.  With such languor it was difficult to make the "forced march" to Weill Recital Hall for Mr. Appleby's recital (review to follow) and we are hoping that one or more of our readers will contribute some news about the Chinese folk songs and zarzuela numbers that we missed.

Xie xie to Ms. Xu and her superb collaborative pianists for a glorious recital.  We feel privileged to have witnessed her growth during the past four years.

© meche kroop

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