|John Relyea and Lori Guilbeau|
We remember Miss Guilbeau as a promising young voice from her days at Manhattan School of Music and are happy to report that she has fulfilled that promise, opening the program with a stirring rendition of "Dich, teure Halle" from Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser. Her sizable soprano filled the hall at the Morgan Library--and then some. Not only is the instrument one to celebrate but the feelings were up front and personal as she rejoiced over her lover's imminent arrival. No wonder her career has taken off!
We are not great fans of Samuel Barber but we admired the crisp diction that made his English words totally understandable in "Give me some music" from Antony and Cleopatra; Ms. Guilbeau's acting chops were on fine display as she brought the seductive Cleopatra to musical life. We preferred Ms. Guilbeau's choice of Rachmaninoff's Midsummer Nights. "Lilacs" was sung and played with delicate filigree; "To Her" was filled with sad longing; "The Pied Piper" was suitably jaunty and the passionate and familiar "Spring Water" seemed quite timely. In the final offering of the recital, "Or siam soli...Una donna son io" from Verdi's Forza del Destino we loved the way she portrayed the desperate Leonora seeking refuge from the guardian at the monastery, stunningly portrayed by Mr. Relyea whose booming base lent authority to the role.
We liked Mr. Relyea best in this operatic role, much as we loved his portrayal of The Water Sprite in Dvořak's Russalka, just seen at The Metropolitan Opera. He is as well known as a recitalist as he is on the opera stage and we did enjoy his performance of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death in which he employed his sizable bass to good advantage. The songs involve Death as a character who comes to relieve the suffering of a sick child, then as a knight to rescue a sick young woman, then as a woman to escort an elderly drunk to his final rest and ultimately to gloat over all the bodies in a battlefield. Thinking of Schubert's "Erlkonig", we would have liked a little more variety of color between the two characters in the first song as the mother dialogues with Death.
Mr. Relyea's choice of Strauss songs appeared to us as unfortunate. Our ears yearned for a far higher register than a bass can muster! Nonetheless, we greatly enjoyed Mr. Jones piano and the variety of colors he evinced.
The many pleasures of the afternoon served to overcome the lassitude engendered by the sleep deficit caused by the onset of Daylight Savings Time and we emerged into the still-sunny afternoon with a lighter step.
© meche kroop