|Sophia Muñoz and James Edgar Knight|
Tenor James Edgar Knight strode onstage clearly eager to delight the audience and delight he did. No shining armor on this knight but rather a suave velvet jacket and bowtie; sporting a David Niven moustache, he looked rather debonair. He and his glamorous collaborative pianist Sophia Muñoz made an elegant pair.
His love of singing was infectious. He made the effort to translate all the texts--French, German, Italian, and Russian--into English. This clearly showed in the singing which was full of commitment and connection. Further, he demonstrated comfort with different types of material from lied to Broadway; we definitely heard the Steven Blier influence.
He began the program with our three favorite Duparc songs. He sang "L'invitation au voyage" with a powerful round sound, painting a picture that was more than usually visible to the mind's eye. We loved the way he swelled into a full crescendo. "Le manoir de Rosemonde" was filled with excitement and urgency. In "Phidylé" he brought it down several notches and emphasized the delicacy of the text. One could not tear away one's eyes or ears.
The same connection with the material was evident in the five songs of Richard Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. But, sadly, the connection with the audience was impaired by the use of a music stand. Violinist Basma Edrees and cellist Talya Buckbinder joined Ms. Muñoz for the gorgeous accompaniment. Our personal favorite is always "Im Treibhaus" with its pattern of four ascending notes reminding us of Tristan und Isolde.
Mr. Knight won our heart with "On the Street Where You Live" from Frederick Loewe's My Fair Lady. He sang it with romantic fervor and involvement.
We also greatly enjoyed the trio of Tosti songs. Although not the possessor of an Italianate timbre, Mr. Knight could never be accused of lacking Italian passion. "L'ultima canzone", Ideale", and "Non t'amo più" were equally stirring-- but the first offering has that melismatic vocalise at the end that drove us wild.
The program closed with three Rachmaninoff songs which Mr. Knight sang "on the book" which again interfered with total audience connection. In "Do not sing, my beauty" he floated his high notes ethereally and the piano accompaniment was more than usually stirring. The seasonally appropriate "Spring Waters" was luscious.
It was the encore that engaged us the most. We are convinced that Mr. Knight was channeling Richard Tauber for whom "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" was written by Franz Lehár; it was for the 1929 operetta Das Land des Lächelns. Fritz Löhner-Beda wrote the romantic lyrics that scan and rhyme and go perfectly with the music. It was just the right end to the recital which was given to fulfill the requirements for a Master of Music Degree from Juilliard.
This reminds us to mention that Manhattan School of Music is presenting that very operetta this weekend, conducted by the wonderful Jorge Parodi. We will be there of course and happy to hear the song once more.
(c) meche kroop