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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Minjung Jung and Ji Yung Lee at uilliard Morse Hall

Last night was a chance for Ji Yung Lee to shine with dual artistry. She appeared first as a singer, offering three selections from Richard Strauss' Mädchenblumen in which the text compares different flowers to different types of women. This is an opportunity for the singer to exhibit different colors and moods, which this lovely soprano had no difficulty achieving.

Her bright soprano sounded beautiful in the upper register, but we could best appreciate her facility with German in "Epheu" which has a lower tessitura.  Our only complaint was the use of the music stand. This loathed piece of stage furniture was used for the entire recital, to our dismay. The collaborative pianist for the Strauss was the excellent Minjung Jung.

For the remainder of the program, Ms. Lee served as collaborative pianist; it would be an understatement to say that we are impressed when an artist can do justice to two fields. 

Her accompaniment of bass William Guanbo Su was excellent; she has a real feel for Brahms. We confess to a certain antipathy for this composer's  Vier Ernste Gesänge largely due to their pious nature. The Bible comes in last in our appreciation of literature. We far prefer the sanguine Brahms with his lighthearted folk songs and ironic romantic despair.

That being said, a wonderful singer can nudge our appreciation in a positive direction and this was accomplished by Mr. Su whose richly textured instrument and expressive coloration went a long way toward alleviating the tedium of the preachy text.  He was particularly fine in the lowest end of the register.  Now, if only he could abandon the music stand!

If mezzo-soprano Marie Engle continued this connection-blocking habit, we were feeling more tolerant since she was a last minute replacement for the ailing Kady Evanyshyn. We are sure she has studied Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben for some time, however, because she invested the work with all the various moods and colors called for by the text.

Ms. Engle has a pleasant voice quality and a fine command of German. Her interpretation of the earlier songs dealing with naiveté, excitement and girlish glee were right on point. That she was also able to convey shock and sorrow came as a surprise to us since that emotion is more difficult to convey by acting. In the final song, she employed a wider vibrato that added to the depiction of grief and despair.

It was in the affecting major/minor shifts that the two artists showed their stuff, leading to a very effective performance in spite of the music stand! We would love to hear this pair perform the same cycle off the book.  Put it on my wishlist!

(c) meche kroop

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