|Martin Katz and Leah Crocetto|
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to experience the auspicious New York recital debut of soprano Leah Crocetto-- up close and personal. We have not seen this glorious rising star since August of 2014 when we thrilled to her performance in Rossini's Maometto II at the Santa Fe Opera (review archived and available by means of the "search" bar).
The Schimmel Center at Pace University is not easy to get to from the Upper West Side but it was well worth the travel. We had a completely different experience of this gifted singer in a space that manages to be capacious but also intimate.
We had planned to use all the information gleaned from the week of master classes we attended but the experience of the recital was so absorbing that we forgot everything but the intense pleasure of listening and hearing. Ms. Crocetto's voice, both powerful and soothing, envelops one like a warm embrace. The sound is ample but especially so at the upper register when it opens up like a parasol.
Her stage presence is relaxed and compelling. She has arms as graceful as a ballet dancer and uses them expressively. Her onstage ease just pulls you into her world. Her connection with the text allows you to see through her eyes.
How many singers could open a program with a set of Strauss songs? With absolute confidence, she sailed into "Zueignung" letting her voice swell to a stunning climax. We loved her interpretation of "Die Nacht" in which she took some highly expressive breaths. In "Morgen" we noticed the way she caressed each word. She finished with the passionate "Cäcilie". We heard these songs coached all last week but we seemed to be really hearing them for the first time yesterday.
It was no challenge for Ms. Crocetto to shift gears into some fine French for a quartet of chansons by Henri Duparc, each one a gem. Her legato is so fine that the feeling carried right through the silences. So this is what is meant by "long lines"! We particularly enjoyed the delicacy of "Extase" and the intensity of "L'invitation au voyage". We heard all the colors of the rainbow.
Her performance of three songs by Lizst came as a complete surprise. We are accustomed to hearing "Pace non trovo" sung by a man and sung often in master classes in which a lot of improvements are proposed. Yesterday not a single note needed improvement. Her interpretation of this tale of obsessive love was completely convincing. "I vidi in terra" permitted a different color and a sweetness of tone.
The second half of the program began with an aria from the aforementioned Maometto II which allowed her to show off her coloratura skills and evoked pleasant memories of her Santa Fe performance as Anna.
In three Barber songs her English was totally clear but we preferred the aria "Ain't it a Pretty Night" from Carlisle Floyd's Susanna.
In the Cole Porter set we realized that American song can compete with lied and chanson, without apology. We do not have to set them apart as "cabaret". Sung without amplification, they surely belong in any singer's repertoire, if they can sing them as well as Ms. Crocetto did. We have Steven Blier to thank for opening our ears on this point!
Our rapt attention won us two encores and they were not "throw away" pieces. We heard "Somewhere" from Bernstein's West Side Story, followed by "Il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's Rondine.
The esteemed Martin Katz was her collaborative pianist. We will think of this recital as a yardstick against which all future recitals will be measured.
(c) meche kroop