Christa Patton and Markéta Cukrová
It is always a special event when Opera Lafayette comes to New York City from their home in Washington D.C. The company makes an annual visit in the Spring, bringing neglected masterpieces, mostly from the 18th c. Opera Lafayette can be counted on to provide not only entertainment but education, by means of lectures which illuminate the operas that are presented.
Artistic Director Ryan Brown came to town for a short visit to pique our curiosity about this season's works and we will only give you a hint--they relate to Madame Pompadour--and we urge you to watch our FB page for advance notice. And if you cannot wait, go directly to their website (operalafayette.org).
Guests at this private event were treated to a delightful performance of Baroque music at a lovely space in Chelsea, not to mention a generously provided spread of delicacies and wine. But we are not here to talk about food (our other passion) but to tell you a bit about the music.
Czechoslovakian mezzo-soprano Markéta Cukrová was accompanied by Christa Patton on a Baroque harp. True to Opera Lafayette form, we were not only entertained but also enlightened by Ms. Patton who demonstrated the unusual features of her harp. Not only does it lack pedals but it has a third row of strings. Something that was entirely new to us is that the flats and sharps are played on different strings. As an amateur pianist, we know that G# for example is played on the same key as A-flat. Not on this harp! We had to listen very closely to discern the difference in color and tonality.
Ms. Patton also introduced the gorgeous songs to which Ms. Cukrová lent her magnificent instrument. We had never enjoyed Baroque singing until our friend soprano Jessica Gould introduced us to her opinion that Baroque songs should not be sung dry, without overtones. And so we grew to love the early Italian canon when so performed.
Ms. Patton told us some interesting facts about the Caccini family. Father Giulio is the composer of "Amarilli", a song that has enchanted us since our first hearing. However we were a bit disappointed to hear that it might have been meant to be ironic. We have always taken it seriously when the poet says "Open my chest and see my love written on my heart".
We heard a number of songs and learned about his daughters and why women chose to be courtesans.
We were completely enraptured by the superlative artistry of both women. The singing was beautifully phrased and the dynamics astonishing. There were some delicate diminuendi that tapered off to a thin thread of sound hanging in the air. The fioritura was cleanly rendered. Although one song was of a religious nature, most were about love. All were sung with consummate expressivity. We so enjoyed this trip back in time.
© meche kroop