|Jonathan Heaney, Seok Jong Baek, and Hidenori Inoue|
A Masters Degree recital marks the commencement of a singer's career, but, as often as not, the singer has already begun singing roles in small companies. Such is the case with bass Hidenori Inoue whom we have heard and admired on a few occasions. His performance as the eponymous hero of Donizetti's Don Pasquale was a revelation and we later enjoyed his appearance with New Amsterdam Opera as Leonora's father in Verdi's Forza del Destino. And we will soon be hearing his Don Magnifico in Rossini's Cenerentola with A.R.E. Opera. That's quite a range of roles!
Yesterday's recital at Manhattan School of Music was his first foray into lieder which thus demonstrated his versatility as an artist. Basses have a long "shelf life" as does Mr. Inoue's teacher James Morris. So it makes sense to try everything whilst one is young. The problem with lieder recitals for the basso fach is that most of the songs are dark in color and it is difficult to establish variety.
The three songs by Schubert that opened the program are a case in point--they are all grim. Jonathan Heaney's piano established the mood in the introduction to "Der Tod und das Madchen" and we would have enjoyed a more tender color from the maiden than we heard from "Death". We enjoyed the eerie tone and anguish of "Der Doppelganger" and found the German to be quite good. Overall we like the quality of Mr. Inoue's instrument and the appealing vibrato. And he has plenty of strength at the lower end of the register.
It was evident in the three songs by Henri Duparc than Mr. Inoue can sing with a more tender color, as he did in "Phidyle". It was also clear that he knew what he was singing about and we saw les abeilles and les oiseaux through his eyes. "Extase" was lovely but "La Vague et la Cloche" took us right back to "grim" with its disturbing nightmare.
After intermission, Mr. Inoue was back on more familiar territory. He is a natural on the opera stage and gave a superb performance of Fiesco's aria from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. Although Fiesco is an enemy of the hero, Verdi's music and Mr. Inoue's performance stimulated our sympathy for the character who has just lost his daughter. He is filled with grief which he transmutes into anger at Boccanegra and at the Virgin. We enjoyed it so much that we were moved to listen to several of the great basses singing the same aria--Cesare Siepi, James Morris, and Nicolai Ghiaurov. Mr. Inoue can be proud of his performance!
Four songs by Aaron Copland were well handled and injected some variety into the program. "The Little Horses" has rhythmic variety and some notes at the top of the basso range which the artist handled well. His English is sung with only the slightest accent which didn't interfere with our understanding of the text. We particularly liked the lively and spirited reading he gave to "Ching-A-Ring Chaw".
The program closed with the marvelous duet from Bellini's I Puritani which we recently saw at The Metropolitan Opera.
We have heard the rousing "Suoni la tromba" often at award recitals because it it a stunning showpiece for baritone and bass. In this case the baritone was Seok Jong Baek, whom we always enjoy. The two artists shared a beautiful blending of tones.
Although Mr. Inoue's upcoming schedule will take him to Maine and to Oklahoma, we suggest you catch his upcoming performance in the afore-mentioned Cenerentola. We believe he is destined for great success and you will be able to say "I heard him when...".
(c) meche kroop