|Dan Saunders, Michelle Bradley, Yunpeng Wang, and Kang Wang
Thanks to Mother Nature holding off on the threatened rain and thanks to the Lindemann Young Artist Program (and all the city agencies and foundations supporting the Summer Recital Series), a large audience at Jackie Robinson Park had the pleasure of hearing a thrilling recital of arias and duets last night. Our only complaint is the brevity. Not that the artists were stinting in their generosity; just that our ears were greedy for more!
The program was wisely chosen with well-known arias and duets that most people would have recognized. Even small children were held spellbound; even the page-turner got applause during the standing ovation.
Do we tire of these familiar numbers? Oh no! Each one is so well written that there is room for a great artist to tell us something new about the character who is assigned that particular piece of music. Although each Lindemann artist is uniquely gifted, there is a common thread among them all; they do not just "perform", but rather they inhabit the character so completely that our mind's eye supplies the sets and costumes and story leading up to the aria or duet.
However, in a generous touch that impressed us, each artist introduced her/himself and explained what was going on. In that fashion, audience members who were not familiar with the piece and who may not have understood the language were made to feel a part of the proceedings. No one could have felt left out. We hope those who were introduced to the joys of opera will proceed to investigate further.
Michelle Bradley not only has a thrilling soprano but she is a true diva, commanding the stage with real presence. Equally adept at the long French lines of "Depuis le jour" from Charpentier's Louise and the round delicious flavor of Italian, she made good use of her stature and ability to engage; the audience was completely carried away. She has a special gift for portraying young women in love, as seen in the afore-mentioned and also in "Mercè, dilette amiche" from Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani and in "Doretta's Song" from Puccini's La Rondine. Her voice, expansive with resonant overtones, swells magnificently from a firm center. Her encore piece "He's got the whole world in his hand" brought the audience to their collective feet.
Tenor Kang Wang has the sweetness and ease that we so love in the tenor instrument but do not always hear. He never pushes and therein lies the aural pleasure we experienced. He excels at young men in love. "Una furtiva lagrima" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore was given a tender timbre; "Lunge da lei...De'miei bollenti spiriti" was sung with heartfelt enthusiasm; encore piece "No puede ser" from Pablo Sorozábal's zarzuela La Tabernera del Puerto was colored with incredulity. "La donna è mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto required a bit more caddishness which we suspect is foreign to this lovely artist.
Baritone Yunpeng Wang was in top form. Every time we hear him he seems to grow in stature. He sang Figaro's "Largo al factotum" from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia as if he were born to sing it; every expression and gesture served the character. He colored his voice completely differently as he portrayed Germont Père in "Di Provenza" from Verdi's La Traviata; although he was portraying a character twice his age, he channeled his own father and became completely convincing.
Probably one of the less familiar numbers on the program was "O du mein holder Abendstern" (from Wagner's Tannhäuser), one of our very favorite baritone arias, and here given a beautiful interpretation by Mr. Wang. Accompanist Dan Saunders, fine throughout the evening, recreated the harp arpeggios on the piano and Mr. Wang's ornamentation on the word "engel" was exquisite. One senses the Italianate influence of Verdi on Richard Wagner but one can also appreciate Mr. Wang's crisp German diction and the depth at the very bottom of his register.
In Padre, Padrone, a film by the Taviani brothers, the hero hears this aria when he is a young shepherd in the mountains of Sardinia--and it changes his life. That's just the kind of aria it is. We imagined that Mr. Wang's performance changed some lives last night.
Mr. Wang's encore piece was the "Champagne Aria" from Mozart's Don Giovanni in which he got to express his impressive versatility.
Several duets were presented which permitted various combinations of voices. "Au fond du temple saint" from Georges Bizet's "Les Pêcheurs des Perles" allowed both Wang's to join voices in perfect harmony. From Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Ms. Bradley and Mr. Yunpeng Wang performed the realismo love scene between Nedda and Silvio. Ms. Bradley and Mr. Kang Wang created the joy of young love in "O soave fanciulla" from Puccini's La Bohème.
To have heard such a recital with so much talent onstage and all that great energy was one of the summer's greatest gifts.
(c) meche kroop