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.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Kim (David) Smith at Le Poisson Rouge
Kim Smith is more than a singer; he is a performer, an entertainer and, in many ways, a magician.  He can wave his magic hands and transform an ordinary song into something totally original.  This Australian recording artist put on quite a show last night at Le Poisson Rouge, keeping the audience on the edges of their seats and quiet as mice.

What we enjoyed most was Kim unadorned, sans amplification, with only an accordion as accompaniment.  Not that there is anything shabby about his band; excellent musicians all--a versatile guitarist, bass player and drummer joined the accordion--but that as a lover of lieder we are most interested in his interesting voice and the well-chosen texts which were occasionally drowned out by the loud music.

Mr. Smith creates quite an image onstage--expressive eyes ringed in kohl, sparkles in his hair, wearing a white shirt and bowtie with a leather harness on top.  He has an angelic face but makes himself out to be an irresistible naughty boy.

But it is the way he uses his voice and his body that makes him so compelling a performer.  His phrasing is unique and his vocal colors highly expressive.  His gestures hold one in thrall.  All he needs to do is to crook a finger or two and we are in a trance.

His repertoire is heterogeneous, comprising German cabaret, French chanson, opera, American pop and seriously disturbing songs as well.  One of our favorites was "Pirate Jenny" from Kurt Weill's  Three Penny Opera with scathing lyrics by Marc Blitzstein.  Another was "Padam, Padam" made famous by Edith Piaf.  "Summertime" from George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, with lyrics by DuBose Heyward made an indelible impression.

Sonny Bono's "Bang Bang", made famous by Cher, was given an original twist.  Abel Meeropol's "Strange Fruit"--made famous by Billie Holliday--was performed within a medley of songs about the South and presented disturbing imagery.

If we had one disappointment in the evening it was a song we have heard Mr. Smith perform dozens of times, a song he sings better than any classical recitalist, and usually given by them as an encore--William Bolcom's  "Black Max".  The song has a wonderful melody and the words describe a most interesting character from the seedy side of Rotterdam.  It wasn't the singing or the superb interpretation that bothered us; it was the overly elaborate orchestration which detracted from Mr. Smith's performance. 

Mr. Smith's engaging banter wove the songs together as he flirted with the audience and drew them in, in his own inimitable way.  If you have never seen one of his frequent performances around New York, you owe it to yourself to watch for one in the future.  Or, you could buy one of his two excellent CD's.

© meche kroop

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