|Tomoko Nakayama an Zhiguang Hong|
What impresses most about Mr. Hong is his confident stage presence and his heroic style. He commanded the stage completely in R. Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel which he sang with authority. We noticed right away his strength in the lower register. His collaborative pianist, Tomoko Nakayama, accompanied his "Let Beauty Awake" with some lovely arpeggios.
He was even more commanding in "See the raging flames arise" from Handel's Joshua with its challenging fioritura; his strong full instrument was used to good advantage. Again, Ms. Nakayama played beautifully in the piano prelude. Mr. Hong's English diction was beautifully clear.
Three songs from Verdi's Sei Romanze followed, "More, elisa, lo stanco poeta", "In solitaria stanza" and "Deh, pietoso, o Addolorata". Although his voice sounded fine, we wanted a bit more Italianate style.
In the second half of the program, we heard three songs by Henri Duparc. We were delighted to hear a more gentle aspect to his voice in "Phidylé" but when he sang "Le Manoir de rosemonde", we realized that his strengths lie in the more heroic oeuvre. In "La vague et la cloche" we loved the storm created by Ms. Nakayama on the piano.
Most impressive were the four songs by Schubert which ended the program. In "Wasserflut" from Winterreise Mr. Hong showed more variety and depth of feeling than in the prior songs. We found it quite moving and hoped that this promising young artist will continue to work on adding more variety to the other songs in his repertory--variety of dynamics and color.
The final song,"Erlkönig", astonished us because EVERYTHING was there. His ability to loosen up and tell the story while acting the parts of the narrator, the reassuring father, the frightened child and the eerily seductive Erlkönig made the performance chilling and gripping in its intensity. Each character's voice was colored differently. He also used his body effectively.
This made us think that Mr. Hong's future lies on the opera stage. Indeed, he has a number of important opera engagements coming up. In any case, we would be happy to learn that he is working on his French and German diction which did not quite live up to the standards set by his excellent English.
The audience demanded encores and encores we got! As one might expect, Mr. Hong was far more relaxed in his native tongue and the two Mandarin folk songs we heard delighted us no end. Wild applause brought on one final encore "This Nearly Was Mine" from Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific.
© meche kroop