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.

Friday, May 11, 2018


Stephanie Chase, Isabel Pérez Dobarro, Anna Tonna, and Robert Osborne

Last night's recital was much more than a recital. It was a dramatic and musical biography of a notable female figure who is rather unknown in the USA but who deserves to be celebrated. For this celebration we must thank The Hispanic Society Concert Series which was initiated in 2010 to promote the music of Spanish and Hispanic composers.

Teresa Carreño was born in 1853 in Venezuela to a musical family which moved to the USA. A childhood prodigy she toured the world as singer, pianist, composer, and conductor. A huge arts complex in Venezuela bears her name. This fiercely independent woman lived life on her own terms and married four times; two of her husbands were brothers. The program notes of dramaturg August Ventura (best known for his film about the Verdi fanatics of Parma) were replete with interesting tidbits.
Mr. Ventura's script, tying all the musical numbers together, made use of Carreño's own words and those extracted from the correspondence of those who knew her, as well as critics and contemporaneous biographers. The selections on the program were composed by her, or by those in the music world who championed her, befriended her, or studied with her.

It was surely a labor of love to research all this material and construct a script. Bass-baritone Robert Osborne performed the musically equivalent labor of love in reconstructing and transcribing her scores and manuscripts.

Her talent was so varied that two artists were required to represent her onstage. As Carreño the singer, we had mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna; as Carreño the pianist, we had Isabel Pérez Dobarro. Both women, as well as violinist Stephanie Chase rocked gorgeous late 19th c. gowns and hairstyles, transporting us to our favorite epoch.

Mr. Osborne portrayed the men in her life and was also spiffily clad in period attire and in fine voice as well.

The program opened with her jaunty Intermezzo scherzando which left no doubt about her superb writing for piano. Gottschalk's The Dying Poet was given a lyrical waltz treatment. That she could write for other instruments as well as piano was demonstrated by her Romance for violin and piano.

But our favorite work for piano was Chopin's Mazurka, op.33, no. 1. The work is in Rondo form and the first theme overwhelmed us with it's sorrow; it is never lugubrious but we heard plenty of pain. The second section sounded a note of triumph. Each time the first section was repeated, the color became a little brighter and by the end it was almost cheerful. Ms. Dobarro must be a magician on the keys to limn so much subtlety.

There were two devilishly difficult pieces on the program that did not faze this gifted pianist: "Lizst's Transcendental Etude #10" and Edward MacDowell's "Hexentanz".

We enjoyed a couple of duets from Ms. Tonna and Mr. Osborne. We particularly enjoyed Anton Rubinstein's tender Der Engel. "La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni can be performed countless ways and our two artists put their own spin on it.  Mr. Osborne's Don was more authoritarian than seductive and Ms. Tonna was less coy and sang some of the lines as if they were private thoughts, not shared with the Don. We usually hear a soprano in this role but Ms. Tonna's voice was well suited to the role.

Ms. Tonna also excelled in Rossini's "A Granada" which seemed perfect for her warm tone and graceful phrasing. There was some lovely melismatic singing in a Carreño piece entitled "Barcarola".

Another Carreño piece "Feuillet d'Album" was sung by Mr. Osborne in his customary fine French which he also employed in Gounod's famous "Sérénade", a melodic setting of text by Victor Hugo to which Stephanie Chase's violin contributed.

We liked these better than "Sebastianos Tanzlied", composed by Eugen d'Albert, one of Carreño's husbands. This had nothing to do with Mr. Osborne's performance but it seemed off-kilter that a French composer wrote about a Spanish theme, in German.

The program ended with "La Serenata" by Gaetano Braga, a duet with which Carreño usually ended her program. All four artists joined for a beautiful finale.

The program entertained and educated. We hope to see works by Carreño on more programs.

(c) meche kroop

No comments:

Post a Comment