|Nathan Haller and Leann Osterkamp|
Graduation recitals are always cause for bittersweet feelings. We are joyful to mark the occasion of an artist's achievement and excited about their future; at the same time we feel sad that we will miss seeing and hearing them perform. For the most part we have been watching their artistic growth from the sidelines and have developed feelings of involvement.
Yesterday superstar tenor Nathan Haller performed his final recital at Juilliard and impressed us with his suave stage presence, his linguistic skills, and his versatility. He opened his program with scenes from Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
This was not just a performance of arias; Mr. Haller as Belmonte enlisted the help of two superb colleagues--tenor James Edgar Knight in the role of the goofy Pedrillo and bass Önay Köse as the growly grouchy Osmin. Not only was the singing glorious but the acting was as fine as one would wish for, had the opera been fully staged. Mr. Haller is a natural for Mozart and made excellent use of his refined messa di voce.
Vincenzo Bellini set a text by Metastasio to a gorgeous simple melody; Pavarotti recorded it with James Levine in 1988. We could listen to it over and over again; Mr. Haller's performance required no comparisons. He sounded terrific in his own right, singing with highly expressive sincerity and a lovely legato.
Fauré's "Adieu" was sung with a long lean Gallic line and excellent French diction. Benjamin Britten's "Before life and after" was impassioned.
A set of Schubert songs closed the all-too-brief program. It was in this set that we got to appreciate collaborative pianist Leann Osterkamp, especially as she matched the variety of Mr. Haller's colors in our personal favorite, "Erlkönig". The matter-of-fact narrator yielded to the frightened piping child, the steadfast reassuring father, and the slimy seductive titular Erlkönig. It was such a stunning performance that we wished it had been the closing lied.
It had such a strong emotional impact that we had to struggle to "let it go" and focus on the rest of the Schubert--all of which were excellent. "Liebesbotschaft" permitted Mr. Haller to show sweeter coloring while "Kriegers Ahnung" took him into his lower register where he assumed darker coloring.
The romantic "Ständchen" always melts our heart and Mr. Haller's delivery reached perfection. He accurately portrayed the pain and futility in "Der Atlas". "Der Doppelgänger" was appropriately spooky, anguished and intense. The final lied "Taubenpost" is a cheerful one which left us smiling.
Unfortunately, there was no encore; we would have happily enjoyed another hour of music by Mr. Haller and Ms. Osterkamp. Mr. Haller has an excellent position next season in Switzerland and we are consoling ourself over our loss by thinking how much the Swiss will embrace his prodigious talent.
(c) meche kroop