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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


Daniel Fung and Alexandra Razskazoff at Juilliard

Spring is a bittersweet season for us.  The singers we have been enjoying all year are graduating and giving their final recitals. Many of them take off for distant shores and we never know when we will hear them again. Fortunately, we will have more opportunities to hear the splendid soprano Alexandra Razskazoff who will be awarded her MM degree from Juilliard--first in the upcoming Zauberflöte at Juilliard and then in August in Santa Fe, where she has been invited back as a Second Year Apprentice.

On the opera stage, Ms. Razskazoff is distinguished by her warm generous soprano and excellent acting. How well we remember her performance as the Countess in Nozze di Figaro! She made a fine Eva in Die Meistersinger.  In recital, she is distinguished by a relaxed and confident stage presence and the ability to honor the text in a meaningful manner.

Last night's recital was a challenging one and a rewarding one; she opened by welcoming her audience, describing her program, and graciously thanking her teacher, Robert C. White, Jr., and her most able collaborative pianist Daniel Fung.

Predictably, our favorite part of the evening was the all-too-short set of Rossini songs. We imagined we were at a salon, chez des amis, back in the 19th c.  A glamorous diva has been invited to entertain us guests with "La Promessa" and "L'invito". We do so love to be transported and indeed we were. The songs are pure delight with typical Rossini melodies and they were charmingly sung.

We also loved the Russian songs. Those of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov are not often heard and we love the idea that his "Nimfa" is different from the German "Lorelei" immortalized in Franz Liszt's song. This one does not lure sailors to their death! His "The lark sings louder" is a paean to Spring. This joyful song was followed by Sergei Rachmaninoff's  anxious "I wait for thee!" in which Ms. Razskazoff illuminated the very particular pain of anguished waiting.

Her performance of the Liszt songs was equally fine. Daniel Fung's delicacy on the piano was perfect for "Freudvoll und leidvoll" and the delicacy, so different from the forceful piano we expect from Liszt, extended through "Lasst mich ruhen" and "Du bist wie eine Blume".  But oh, that bad girl Lorelei!

Also on the program was Benjamin Britten's On This Island, Op. 11, which we just recently heard. We grant that Britten rose to new heights in his setting of Auden's text but this will never be among our favorite song cycles. That being said, Ms. Razskazoff lent an appealing resonance to the work and sang with exquisite dynamic control. We related best to the final two songs--the solemn "Nocturne", sung with great expressivity and plenty of room in the lower register with rumbly low chords in the piano--and the ironic "As it is, Plenty" with its jazzy piano writing. The only problem was that several words of the text were lost and needed to be enunciated better.  This was not a problem with the German, Russian and Italian.  English is just so difficult to sing!

Olivier Messiaen's  Poèmes Pour Mi, Book II has never interested us but Ms. Razskazoff gave the four selections an impassioned delivery. It is a tribute to her artistry that we didn't run out of the theater screaming. We do not like his music or his text. Just give us more Rossini!

(c) meche kroop

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