Adriana Valdés and Juan del Bosco
With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, love in the time of social media is just as fraught as Love in the Time of Cholera. In an unusual and ultimately fulfilling exploration of "Love, Hate, and Songs", many genres and languages were involved.
Thanks to Steven Blier and his NewYork Festival of Songs, we have come to realize that great songs can be found outside of the world of opera. Still, our personal preference is for songs in Italian and Spanish, the vowels of which permit the best experience of a singer's resonance. In the case of Latin American music, we hear no evidence of the loathed atonalism and prosy libretti favored by North American composers. Popular songs feel very related to art songs when they are performed unamplified.
Last night at Opera America, fans of soprano Adriana Valdés and tenor Juan del Bosco packed the room to the bursting point, enjoying this eclectic program. With the exception of songs about the beauties of nature, most songs have been written about love--wanting love, feeling loved, unrequited love, broken love, etc. The presence of cell phones in communicating with potential, present, or former lovers seems to add to the pain, as illustrated in last night's program.
Accompanied by the versatile pianist Tristan Cano, Ms. Valdés showed off many sides of her artistry, from Moss Hart's jazzy "My Funny Valentine" and Johnny Mercer's "That Old Black Magic" to The 17th c. "Yo soy la locura" by Henri de Bailly in it's stirring minor key and, in more familiar territory, "Si, mi chiamano Mimi" from Puccini's La Bohême.
Similarly, Mr. del Bosco moved our feelings with the late 20th c."Cómo quien pierde una estrella", the first international hit of the Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez. This lament for lost love showed hints of Mr. Fernandez' origins in folk music and mariachi. We became a fan on the spot.
Ennio Neri's "Parlami d'amore Mariu" is a 20th c, Neapolitan song we always love to see on a vocal program and our tenor put heart and soul into his performance.
Also stunning were the tenor's forays into arias written by Giacomo Puccini. "Nessun dorma" from Turandot was particularly powerful. Counter-intuitively, the most powerful moment was when the artist brought his first "splendera" down to the pianissimo level before exploding into the grand climax. He also showed a more tender side in his duet with Ms. Valdés "O soave fanciulla". Playing into the 21st c. theme, our soprano became contemporarily seductive which the audience seemed to enjoy more than we did.
Returning to the theme of magic realism, the fourth leg of this stable table was Mr. Magic Chef who not only sings and cooks but also performs magic tricks involving cutting a rope into pieces which then reconstitute themselves. Baritone Ago D'Agostaro did a fine performance of the famous popular song "Volare" and also one in French--"La vie en rose". To his credit we understood his French as well as we did his Italian. His cabaret style brought interesting variety to the evening.
It was an unusually diverse evening, held together for us by the theme of magic. And isn't love magic?
© meche kroop