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.

Friday, October 16, 2015


Ava Nazar, Michal Biel, Piotr Buszewski, Samantha Hankey, Tatum Robertson, Angela Vallone, Cherie Roe, Andrew Harley, and Adam Rothenberg

A new semester begins at Juilliard and we are so happy on two counts. Firstly we get to hear some new singers and collaborative pianists; secondly we get to reconnect with young artists that we enjoyed so much last year.

Last night's Liederabend was a splendid one, mixing up the familiar and the new. It was the first time we heard soprano Tatum Robertson who did a fine job with selections from Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs. Twentieth century American songs may never be among our favorites, but Ms. Robertson sang them so expressively that we are growing in appreciation.

We especially enjoyed the warmth and affection we heard in her voice when she performed "The Monk and his Cat". "Promiscuity" was brief but given outsized significance by vocal coloring and facial expression. In "The Desire for Hermitage", dynamics were used effectively to convey the longing for solitude. Ms. Robertson's instrument is a sweet one and her diction was so fine that not a word was missed.

Collaborative pianist Cherie Roe matched Ms. Robertson's expressiveness in a most supportive manner.

Another singer was new to us, tenor Piotr Buszewski who performed three songs by Henri Duparc. In "Phidylé", he established a nice line in the French style, evincing a fine delicate vibrato. We loved the delicate messa di voce on the word "repose". Otherwise the delivery was on the restrained side.

The mood changed completely with "Le manoir de Rosemonde" which was filled with drama and excitement, echoed by the piano of Michal Biel. We had no trouble understanding every word of Mr. Buszewski's French.

Soprano Angela Vallone had impressed us last year and we were delighted to hear her once again. Her selections were Claude Debussy's Ariettes oubliées, settings of texts by Paul Verlaine, most of which she had translated herself. We do believe that such an exercise gives the singer a better handle on the song.

The sweet sadness of "Il pleure dans mon coeur" gave way to the wild excitement of "Chevaux de bois". Ava Nazar made a fine piano partner, creating the various moods of the songs along with Ms. Vallone, whose French is mighty fine.

The final set on the program comprised a quartet of songs from Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, songs of which we never tire. Hearing them sung by mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey, well remembered from last year, was a special treat.

Mahler's music always has a special poignancy, even the humorous and cheerful songs. "Ablösung im Sommer" ostensibly describes the nightingale replacing the cuckoo but has a deeper resonance for us about loss in general, making way for the new. Perhaps our favorite song in this group is "Rheinlegendchen" in which one can discern the same theme. The farmer throws his golden ring into the Neckar when his sweetheart abandons him; but a fish will swallow it and wind up on the King's table where the girl will get it and return to the farmer.  Loss and replacement.

All this was beautifully conveyed by Ms. Hankey accompanied so well by Adam Rothenberg. The two of them captured the painful irony of "Das irdische Leben" in which the mother's stalling leads to her child's death by starvation, a dreadful commentary on the life of the poor. 

The final selection "Wer hat die Liedlein erdacht" allowed Ms. Hankey space for some impressive melismatic embellishment. It was a fine performance needing only one small correction to make it perfect.  More attention needs to be paid to the "ch" sound. So many American singers avoid pronouncing it altogether because they are afraid it will sound harsh. But it is required!

Last night's excellent program was coached by Andrew Harley. The artists are students from the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts and the Collaborative Piano Department.

(c) meche kroop

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