|Francisco Miranda and Lawson Anderson|
Last night's recital at the National Opera Center presented bass-baritone Lawson Anderson and collaborative pianist Francisco Miranda performing, no, living Franz Schubert's 1827 song cycle Die Winterreise, presented by Vocal Productions NYC. The event was so compelling that we were unable to wield pen or camera. The emotion was so intense that it has stayed with us all night. On our row alone, we observed a couple other audience members dabbing at their teary eyes and softly blowing their noses. It was unbearably real.
Award winning bass-baritone Lawson Anderson, whom we have been writing about for a couple of years, employed excellent German, gorgeous phrasing, and some very dark colors--but none of this mattered. What mattered was the intense involvement that conveyed itself to the audience.
Wilhelm Müller's text describes the decompensation of a presumably young man, disappointed in love. He leaves the town where his sweetheart lives in dead of night. Every object and natural element becomes a metaphor for his loneliness, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness. One could say that this is an exaggeration of German Romanticism but we saw it last night as a severe case of melancholia, especially through the interpretation of Mr. Anderson.
In our time, the young man would have been hustled off to the psychiatrist and treated with anti-depressants and group therapy. Two centuries ago, he would have been filled with shame and seen no way out. As Mr. Anderson sang, we heard the fellow sinking into ever deeper and self-referential gloom, in spite of some feeble attempts to rouse himself. By the latter part of the cycle he seems to be hallucinating. In the final song "Der Leiermann" he is able to project his despair onto another isolated human who grinds out songs to which no one listens.
We don't know if Müller suffered from depression, but his text surely appealed to Schubert who, for many reasons, including poverty, lack of public recognition, syphilis, and possibly homosexuality, was frequently morbidly depressed. Only a person who has suffered from deep depression could have composed such music, illuminating Müller's text so effectively.
We hope Mr. Anderson has not experienced such sorrow and wondered how he was able to communicate it so effectively. Such is artistry--something that goes way beyond good technique.
Still, we admire the expansion we have witnessed at the bottom of the register. There's a lot of depth there that makes us think Verdi and Wagner. Mr. Lawson has been coached by Valentin Peytchinov.
Mr. Miranda's piano enhanced the references to natural elements, bringing out the howling of dogs, the rattling of chains, the sound of the hurdy-gurdy, the wind, the graceful linden tree, the pounding of the heart, the sound of the posthorn. The two artists succeeded admirably in creating an aural picture. As a matter of fact, there were many times during the recital that they disappeared from our eyes and we could visualize the lonely wanderer in the icy landscape. It has been only a few days since we ourself trudged through the snow, making the evening a very timely one.
(c) meche kroop