Malena Galán (photo by meche kroop)
Graduation recitals are usually pretty exciting, especially if you have watched the graduating singer develop over a period of time. The singer develops the program and gets the stage with whomever she chooses to share with. It is an opportunity to show off what one has learned over the past four years and to exhibit as much variety as one chooses.
At this concert given by mezzo-soprano Malena Galán, graduating from Manne School of Music, we heard accompaniment on the piano by Youngmo Na and Aleksandar Hadžieski, Helen Wyrick on the guitar, Elias Ludlam on flute, Carlos Pino on string bass, as well as by a string quartet comprising Salome Lamidze, Zoe Lo, Sofia Machuca, and Beatriz Sardón Martin,
The recital was a most audience-pleasing survey of her multiple areas of artistry, covering not only art songs in English, German, French, Spanish, and what we think was Ladino-- but also some musical theater and tango. All were enjoyable.
There is one thing that differentiates Ms. Galán's stage presentation and that is a complete comfort with the audience, manifested by a welcoming and engaging manner. We felt as if she were a guest in our home introducing each song.
English may not be our favorite language for singing but Purcell's "Music for a While" was a great opener, showing an artist who isn't afraid of emoting. As a matter of fact, that quality was present in every selection, making each song into a mini-aria. That is the gift of "story-telling". The imagery comes alive in a most engaging fashion.
In the German section, "Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht" from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, we felt like a child listening to a folk tale. In contrast, Schubert's "Ständchen" was filled with ardent mature longing.
In the French section we particularly enjoyed a most convincing "Maman, dîtes-moi" a cute ditty about a girl experiencing the pangs of first love.
Ou favorite in the Italian section was the familiar "Voi che sapete", sung by the very hormonal Cherubino to the Countess in Mozart' Nozze di Figaro. We could just see the youth with all his diffident gestures and bravado.
The hit of the musical theater section was Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are", thankfully sung with simplicity and sincerity. (We never cared for the jazzed up version). We liked the sad song of a disappointed lover from Manuel Valls' Canciones Sefarditas.
Unfortunately, we had to leave before the concluding songs from Argentina, Ms. Galán's homeland. It was not such a great loss because we have a persistent memory of our introduction to the artist at a concert at the Argentinian Consulate organized by fellow Argentinian Maestro Jorge Parodi in which we acquired a great appreciation for those songs.
Between then and last night we had the pleasure of seeing this young artist in a Mannes production of Cavalli's La Calisto. It will be interesting to see where she goes next. A mezzo-soprano with a smoky lower register and firmly supported tone could occupy the world of opera, cabaret, or musical theater. We eagerly await further developments.
We can never end a review without a quibble and here it comes. The German needs work. Like so many American singers, there is so much fear of mispronouncing the final consonants that they get left off to the point where the word makes no sense. Let's get friendly, singers, with "ich" and "ig" and other endings!
© meche kroop