Author Helen Bauer and Chicago Review Press have commemorated the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth with a dynamic volume geared toward kids about this singular composer’s life and music. The book includes prose, fabulous photos, and sidebars about everything from Italian cuisine to counterpoint. Just in time for summer, when the kids have oodles of free time, Bauer’s book also includes 21 quality activities that parents can do alongside their kids.
In honor of the Verdi bicentennial, Atlanta Opera presented La Traviata at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on March 2. The Opéra de Montréal production, last seen at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center in 2005, was revived and reassembled this season, but much has happened to the company while these handsome Claude Girard–Bernard Uzan sets were hibernating. General director Dennis Hanthorn arrived in Atlanta, implemented strategies that put AO in the black and secured a more glamorous and suitable venue for its productions at the Cobb Centre. Hanthorn resigned abruptly in August 2012, after eight years at the helm. In April, the board announced the appointment of stage director Tomer Zvulun as AO’s new general and artistic director.
Joseph Rescigno, a close colleague of Hanthorn’s, returned to lead the opera orchestra this night. Luckily the disappointing execution of the prelude was no indication of what was to come. Verdi’s gentle and heart-wrenching introduction lacked character, tone and any dynamic contrast whatsoever. It was as if the players had no frame of reference for the significance of the “Amami Alfredo” motive that Violetta would proclaim in Act II.
The casting of soprano Mary Dunleavy as the fallen woman Violetta Valéry was providential and redemptive. Dunleavy’s singing of “Ah fors’è lui” and the following cabaletta was technically and aesthetically captivating. She possesses a voice with squillo, omnipresent in both sustained and agile passages. Violetta is Dunleavy’s signature role — one that she has sung at the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera, as well as several other important theaters. She was entirely comfortable inhabiting the role here as well. Dunleavy’s voice and look were entirely transformed in Act III for Violetta’s final act and aria “Addio del passato.” The squillo was gone, but not the lovely core of the sound or the brilliant legato. Happily, Dunleavy is scheduled to return to Atlanta next season in the role of Gounod’s Marguerite.
Young Belarus-born tenor Boris Rudak was an unimpressive Alfredo. His lovely timbre and admirable legato were overshadowed by passages of questionable intonation in Act I. Rudak’s voice might be better appreciated in a smaller venue alongside voices comparable in size. Baritone Weston Hurt, last heard here in Jun Kaneko’s controversial Madama Butterfly in 2008, sang the role of Giorgio Germont with wonderful proficiency and warmth. He negotiated the upper reaches of “Di Provenza” with utter ease, and his singing complemented Dunleavy’s throughout their lengthy duet.
David Gately directed Atlanta’s Traviata. As demonstrated in his clever Atlanta Opera Cenerentola (with Jennifer Larmore) a few seasons ago, Gately’s work shines in scenes that involve comedy and a wealth of stage business. Flora Bervoix’s party — heavily populated by the stellar Atlanta Opera Chorus and set within a monochromatic scarlet-red drawing room — was just such a scene. A single Gypsy girl, dancer Tamara Merritt Irving, entertained the inebriated guests, including Gastone, played by natural comedian Wesley Morgan, and also created both strife and passion between Flora and the Marquis D’Obigny, sung by the talented mezzo-soprano Maria McDaniel and bass-baritone Jason Hardy.
While Atlanta Opera has provided dashes of non-traditional fare to its patrons over the past five years (including Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket), its board of directors recently announced the 2013–14 season and plans to play it safe with warhorses Tosca, Faust and Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It’s not a daring bill of fare, but as long as we hear singers of Mary Dunleavy’s caliber, it’s a potentially satisfying one.
March 25, 2013
The sound of the human voice is the result of breath flowing against an individual’s vocal cords, vocal folds closing and opening at regular intervals, essentially chopping the airstream into small pulses. Remarkable when one stops to think about how that pulsing air and vibration from an instrument so small is the means by which a great singing artist communicates with her audience.
The voice that emanated from mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard on Sunday afternoon at Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall was opulent, truly the fusion of physiology and finesse.
Leonard is the final solo singer in what has been an incredible lineup at Spivey Hall this year, following memorable performances from baritone Simon Keenlyside and countertenor Andreas Scholl. Next season’s schedule is set to be announced today, and it will be difficult to outdo this year’s cast of singers.
A graduate of Juilliard who has already sung leading roles, including Miranda in Adés’ “Tempest” and Rosina in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia“ at the Metropolitan Opera and abroad, Leonard was raised in New York by an Argentinian mother and an American father. Her program made sense in that light, showcasing a potpourri of Spanish songs in the first half and songs by U.S. composers, including three world premieres, following intermission.
Statuesque and gorgeous, Leonard is exceedingly expressive. Every song was a vignette, riddled with subtleties of face and gesture, ideal for the intimacy of a vocal recital. Moreover, she constructed a smart program, highlighting her Spanish fluency and rich vocal timbre. Accompanied by Romanian pianist Vlad Iftinca, she opened with a rarely heard Andalusian song by Manuel de Falla, “El pan de Ronda,” and one of Victoria de los Angeles’ signature pieces, “Clavelitos” by Joaquín Valverde Sanjuán. Her delivery was casual and utterly spontaneous. Leonard makes singing look easy.
The second song group consisted of disparate selections by late-19th-century and 20th-century Spanish composers. Beginning with “Gracia Mía,” excerpted from Enrique Granados’ “Canciones Amatorias,” the singer created a narrative about a mother who first professes that her child is the most beautiful creature she has ever seen. That was followed by Manuel de Falla’s “Oracion de las madres que tienen a sus hijos en brazos,” the prayer of a mother that Jesus would spare her infant son the life of a soldier. The third selection, “Sólo las Flores Sobre ti” by Federico Mompou, is a song about death and grieving. Leonard closed her song cycle with Falla’s angst-filled “Olas gigantes,” in which the mother begs the immeasurable waves to have mercy and swallow her up, eradicating her memory and reason. A young mother herself, Leonard infused this set with intensity. Iftinca was just as vibrant as the pianist, bringing forth lush harmonies.
Leonard highlighted the songs of three contemporary American composers as well: Jennifer Higdon, Glen Roven and Ben Moore. Of the three world premieres, Roven’s setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Wild Nights” is a keeper. It’s not as frenetic as Lee Hoiby’s setting, and the vocal range is more limited. But Roven has composed an apt setting for the poem and does it justice, with agitated and repetitive piano figures set against a sweeping vocal line.
At Spivey Hall this weekend, Isabel Leonard definitely proved that she’s more than just a pretty face. She is just as proficient singing Cole Porter’s “Where, Oh Where” as the “Cinco Canciones Negras” of Xavier Montsalvage. And her Rossini isn’t bad either.
Isabel Leonard sang a recital in Atlanta this afternoon which included some terrific Spanish rep and three world premieres by Jennifer Higdon, Glen Roven and Ben Moore.
Here’s my daughter’s program. Notice how she drew assigned boxes in which Leonard and her pianist Vlad Iftinca should autograph, cleverly labeled ‘boy’ and ‘girl’.
March 9, 2013
If you’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s recent movie “Lincoln,” you’ve seen and heard soprano Mary Dunleavy. The singer, who makes a cameo appearance in the film while Abraham and Mary Lincoln discuss potential legislation in their box seats at the opera, graces Atlanta with her interpretation of Violetta Valéry, the female protagonist in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata,” which concludes Sunday at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
The casting of Dunleavy as the 19th-century Parisian courtesan was brilliant. Violetta is apparently her signature role, one that she has reprised at the Metropolitan Opera several times. It was evident that she was entirely comfortable inhabiting the role here with the Atlanta Opera as well.
Verdi dominated and revolutionized Italian opera in the interim between Donizetti’s last bel canto hit, “Don Pasquale,” in 1843 and Puccini’s initial verismo success, “Manon Lescaut,” in 1893, but his “La Traviata” is still very much steeped in the tradition of elegant vocalism and double-aria forms that his predecessors Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini established during Verdi’s formative years. Armed with incredible dramatic instincts and musical genius, Verdi created in ”La Traviata” an enduring domestic tragedy centered on Violetta Valéry’s sacrifice for her beloved, composing what has become one of the most popular and performed operas in the repertoire.
Verdi undoubtedly would be pleased with the Atlanta Opera’s staging of the work, because Dunleavy delivers an exquisite performance of his heroine in every aspect. Her Act I singing of the cavatina “Ah forsé lui che l’anima” and the following cabaletta were captivating. She possesses a voice with squillo, a.k.a. ping, omnipresent in both sustained and agile passages. Her voice and look were transfigured in Act III for Violetta’s final act and aria, “Addio del passato.” The squillo was gone, but not the lovely core of the sound or the brilliant legato. (Happily, Dunleavy is scheduled to return to Atlanta next season in the role of Gounod’s Marguerite.)
Conductor Joseph Rescigno returned to lead the opera orchestra and a cast that was almost ideal. Baritone Weston Hurt, last heard in Jun Kaneko’s controversial “Madama Butterfly” in 2008, sang the role of Giorgio Germont with wonderful proficiency and warmth. He negotiated the upper reaches of “Di Provenza” with utter ease, and his singing complemented Dunleavy’s throughout their lengthy, four-movement duet at Violetta’s country home in Act II. Regrettably, however, Russian tenor Boris Rudak did not impress in the role of Alfredo. His lovely timbre and admirable legato were overshadowed by passages of questionable intonation and awkward moments onstage.
David Gately directs the Atlanta Opera’s “Traviata.” Several years ago, Gately constructed a clever “La Cenerentola” at the Cobb Energy Centre with Jennifer Larmore in the title role, and it’s evident that his work is most satisfying in scenes that involve comedy and a wealth of stage business. Flora Bervoix’s party, heavily populated by the stellar Atlanta Opera Chorus and set within a monochromatic scarlet drawing room, is just such a scene. A single Gypsy girl (dancer Tamara Merritt Irving) entertained the inebriated guests, including Gastone (played by tenor and natural comedian Wesley Morgan), and created both strife and passion between Flora and her love interest the Marquis D’Obigny, sung by the talented mezzo-soprano Maria McDaniel and bass-baritone Jason Hardy.
The Opéra de Montréal production, last seen at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center in 2005, was revived and reassembled this season, but much has happened to the Atlanta Opera while the handsome Claude Girard-Bernard Uzan sets were hibernating. Dennis Hanthorn arrived as general director, implemented strategies that put the company into the black and secured a more glamorous and suitable venue at the Cobb facility. Now, seven months after Hanthorn’s hasty resignation, the opera’s board of directors is almost at the conclusion of its search for a new visionary.
February 12, 2013
Matthew Guard founded the Skylark Vocal Ensemble, a chamber group of 17 choral singers from Boston and Atlanta, in 2011. Guard is a Harvard graduate who studied conducting during his undergraduate years but changed course soon afterward, earning an MBA and working as a business strategy consultant here and abroad. After five years, he rediscovered his initial vocation and the Skylark Vocal Ensemble took flight. And it’s a gem, a group of proficient soloists who have come together to create a dynamic and inspiring whole.
The Skylarks are performing three concerts in the Atlanta area this season, and the first was heard Sunday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Sandy Springs, a fitting milieu for a concert titled “Something About Mary.” It was an intimate, a cappella evening of ancient, Romantic and modern hymns to the Blessed Virgin.
The women in the group began the concert from the entrance of the sanctuary singing “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” a chant consisting of a single melodic line excerpted from the Canonical Hours, a Roman Catholic service dating from the Rule of Benedict circa 520. The Canonical Hours comprise prayers, psalms, canticles, responses and antiphons sung every day in a regular order. In fact, Guard programmed all four Marian antiphons, chants typically sung in monasteries during Compline at the close of the day, immediately after Vespers.
Skylark’s male chorus took up the energetic monody “Salve Regina,” and then the entire ensemble delighted us with Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Renaissance-era composition of the “Ave Regina caelorum” in five-part polyphony. The antiphons concluded with a dramatic rendition of the 1535 “Regina caeli laetare” by Nicolas Gombert: 12 individual melodic lines, minimalistic and lush. The acoustics of the sanctuary refined and amplified each looping melody, and the ensemble sang sans vibrato, with a remarkable unity of timbre.
From time to time, Skylark members stepped forward, breaking the wall between performer and audience, to introduce certain selections and advise us on what to listen for in them. We heard four of the seven parts of Brahms’ Marienlieder Op. 22, strophic settings that were most likely influenced by Bach. The settings are syllabic, with rare moments of surprising melisma. One narrative, “Der Jäger,” recounted the Annunciation and introduced Gabriel as a hunter blowing his horn. The entire song was subdued and monodynamic until the end, when the singers forcefully proclaimed “Da empfing sie Jesum Christum” (“She then conceived Jesus Christ”) and followed it with a lovely pianissimo “in ihr jungfräulich Herz” (“in her virginal heart”).
Of particular interest was Skylark’s set of songs by 20th-century British masters Benjamin Britten and John Tavener. Britten’s “Hymn to the Virgin” features a double choir, the first of which sang of Mary and her task on earth in English. The second choir, merely a quartet, functioned as a sort of Greek chorus, commenting in Latin at regular intervals. Tavener’s “Hymn to the Mother of God” consisted of a double choir in canon. The ensemble gave us a wash of sound with long, sustained tones, vacillating in and out of dissonance.
The evening came to a close with several well-chosen and dissimilar settings of the “Ave Maria,” by Robert Parsons, Anton Bruckner and Sergey Khvoshchinsky, leaving us to contemplate the Blessed Mother’s grace and the beauty of the human voice.
Although the abrupt resignation of Atlanta Opera’s general director Dennis Hanthorn this past July created both uncertainty and speculation among local opera patrons, the company opened its 2012–13 season at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre as planned on November 10, with a satisfying rendition of Carmen. As the board of directors conducts a search for a new company leader, AO is seemingly in good hands: the company’s music director and conductor Arthur Fagen united an eclectic ensemble of soloists for this well-loved opera hit.
Jeffrey Marc Buchman, who directed the production, framed the story as a flashback. Don José looked on from a prison cell at the start of each act during the orchestral interludes, remembering the events that led to his downfall. Buchman cleverly partnered with his wife, dancer and choreographer Rosa Mercedes, to integrate Spanish dance throughout the show. The work was presented in grand-opera fashion — sans the ballet — with recitatives, rather than dialogue. Due to time restrictions Fagen and Buchman cut the recap of the Act I duet between Micaëla (American soprano Melissa Shippen) and José in Act I, as well as the opening chorus, “Ecoute, écoute compagnons,” in Act III.
The set, designed by Allen Charles Klein, consisted of grand arches with the name “Escamillo” stamped all over them that flanked both sides of the proscenium stage. The bulky fixture remained in place for all four acts, with transitional pieces such as campfires, tables and tents installed according to scene. Buchman skillfully staged his players — including a very large opera chorus — in such a way that the unit set did not grow tiresome. In addition, Buchman and costume designer Joanna Schmink sustained visual interest by carefully delineating social class in the clothes worn by the cast. Peasants and townspeople wore short bolero jackets, while the merchant class donned European coats, hats and parasols. The gypsies wore petticoats in vibrant jewel-tones with mismatched patterns. In the final act, flamenco dancers wore true matador outfits, stiff and rigid, but rebuilt for the dancers.
Spanish mezzo-soprano María José Montiel gave a larger-than-life performance as Carmen: every gesture was exaggerated for the sake of drama. Montiel’s entrance aria, the habanera, was rich with dynamic contrast and rubato. Her upper register isn’t thrilling, but the contralto-esque timbre of her instrument in the middle and low voice is simply stunning. Montiel’s singing in the last act was earthy and muscular — unforgettable.
Mexican tenor Fernando de la Mora returned to Atlanta to sing the role of the ill-fated Don José. Last heard in AO’s 2007 production of Roméo et Juliette, de la Mora paced himself vocally, maintaining vibrancy in every scene. The Act II aria, “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée,” concluded with an achingly beautiful pianissimo as José lay down next to Carmen, alone in Lillas Pastia’s tavern.
Russian–American baritone Aleksey Bogdanov rounded out the international cast with a confident portrayal of Escamillo, the bullfighter and José’s rival. Bogdanov’s substantial voice rumbles rivetingly from top to bottom.
The AO production boasted an adept crew of supporting singers. Amanda Opuszynski shone as Frasquita. Most of Frasquita’s singing is within ensemble numbers, but Opuszynki’s burnished soprano voice could be heard clearly, exciting and fresh. Similarly, Kaitlyn Costello, a former dancer turned opera singer, drew our attention with her clear, lyric mezzo as Mercédès.
Walter Huff’s chorus performed exceptionally well, as always, and was joined by an adorable and dynamic children’s chorus prepared by Will Breytspraak.
For my Emory students embarking on their studies of German diction this semester…
By Katherine Boyle, Friday, January 4, 10:30 AM
The concert didn’t sound unusual. The Choral Arts Society sang with its typical verve. The parade of soloists basked in the customary applause, and the orchestra played Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” with the radiance and rigor it requires.
But an unexpected presence — a large hump bulging out from the soprano’s amethyst gown — caused stirs in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Surprised audience members noted Erin Wall’s impending motherhood when she perched herself in front of the choir.
The pregnant opera singer isn’t an uncommon sight. Last month, Janai Brugger, 29, then 61 / 2 months pregnant, made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Liu in Puccini’s “Turandot.” Costumes and characters can mask the evidence of pregnancy. Unsuspecting viewers would never notice the bump.
But at 32-weeks large, it was clear that Wall was singing for two. Breathing for two. Performing Missa Calisthenics too much, standing and sitting ad nauseam. Oh, the nausea!
“That part is difficult, the getting up and sitting down,” said Wall, a Toronto-based opera singer who performed with the National Symphony Orchestra last November. “It gets exhausting. I think I’d have rather just stood there the whole time.”
For millennia, women have dealt with the ups and downs of pregnancy, whereby simple tasks — walking, eating, even breathing — become challenges. Singers, dancers and musicians have additional concerns: They must navigate this common stage of womanhood on stages, acting as though little is changing inside their expanding bodies. They know the perils of pregnancy, how the experience can disrupt careers. And as the public continues to debate Yahoo CEO’s Marissa Mayer’s two-week maternity leave and the needs of pregnant professionals, women artists have unique worries: Will my voice change in the second trimester? Will my dance partner be able to lift me? Can I still fly to concerts across the globe, and if so, who will carry my cello case?
“My first pregnancy, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Wall, 37, who gave birth to her second child last week. “I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do my job. But once I learned how to cope with the sickness, it was fine.”
So expectant mothers adapt. They perform with precision, even as their instruments change. Dancers mourn the loss of muscle tone as it melts away like a Dali scene. Opera singers revel in the surge of hormones that give their voices richer, fuller timbre. Cellists lay their instruments on their bellies and hope the baby doesn’t kick when the timpanist strikes.
“My daughter would always react to something particularly loud,” said NSO principal second violinist Marissa Regni, 44, of her now 9-year-old daughter Sofie. “She’d also inevitably start kicking and poking right when I’d start a solo.”
Most artists mask discomfort with aplomb. They are trained, after all, to maintain graceful demeanors. But don’t think for a moment that pregnant performers aren’t preoccupied by nature: it’s calling them to the ladies’ room during intermissions.
Plies, mommy? Pretty plies.
Dancers suffer the most from pregnancy’s unforgiving elements: their prolonged breaks from work often begin well before they give birth. Xiao Nan Yu, 34, a dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, was preparing for the North American tour of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” last year when she became pregnant with her second child. Unable to debut the role of the Queen of Hearts, she will perform it this month at the Kennedy Center almost one year after giving birth.
“You are so mentally aware that your body is changing, you worry about your heart rate, your breathing,” Yu said. “And the boys are just so scared. They don’t want to lift you. They don’t want to have anything to do with you.”
After her first pregnancy, it took Yu nearly a year to get back into shape. “My body forgot how to dance. I had to reteach myself the movements,” she said. But her second pregnancy was different: she was dancing two months after childbirth, a reminder that every pregnancy poses unique challenges.
Erin Du, 34, school director at the American Dance Institute, recalls having to drop out of a role because of pregnancy in 2007 when she danced with the Washington Ballet. Her center of gravity was off, and her muscles were tighter. During her first trimester, the mere sight of spinning dancers caused terrible dizziness.
“I was the first woman in the company to get pregnant,” Du recalled. “One of [the dancers] later said to me, ‘I always knew you were going to the bathroom to throw up when you’d pull your hair up as you walked by.’ ”
Du served as the company’s ballet mistress while pregnant, attending practices and learning roles instead of performing.
Until a couple of decades ago, dancing while pregnant — or returning to a company after pregnancy — was a rare occurrence. Women feared pregnancy would ruin their careers, and the stigma often caused women to delay motherhood or retire after giving birth. Now, dancing while pregnant is relatively common, with some ballet dancers performing into their second trimester. In 2004, Irina Dvorovenko, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, danced the pas de deux from “Swan Lake” when she was four months pregnant. However, most dancers stop performing in their first trimesters.
A hormonal mother lode
Opera singers sometimes forgo roles as well when visibly pregnant. Wall notes that a company asked her to drop out of a role over the summer because her character could not appear pregnant. (She declined to name the company or role.)
Some companies are more flexible, though, masking pregnancies with elaborate costumes. In July, Wall played the title role of the Santa Fe Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’s “Arabella.” She hid her pregnancy under a fur-trimmed coat and loose-fitting gowns with elaborate details.
Brugger also wore a loose-fitting costume while playing a slave girl in “Turandot.”
“Liu is a pregnant-friendly role,” she said. “Her costume isn’t tight or fancy. It was comfortable.”
Opera singers enjoy the benefits of hormonal changes more than other performers. Many singers find that their voices, both during and sometimes after giving birth, become stronger due to higher levels of progesterone, the hormone that regulates ovulation.
Stephanie Adrian, an opera singer and research affiliate of Emory University, published a case study in the Journal of Singing that chronicled her third pregnancy and its effects on her voice. She found that the timbre and warmth of her voice changed in the second trimester,
“I was surprised that vocal color is hormonally influenced,” Adrian said. “The same hormones that allow you to have a baby also affect other things within the body.”
Brugger felt the change in her second trimester, too: “My voice has gotten fuller and mature. It’s easier to sing through my middle voice.”
“The hormones seem to give an extra richness and womanliness,” Wall echoed. “It’s helped me with my middle and low range.”
Still, opera singers sometimes struggle in their first trimesters: morning sickness and acid reflux can cause extra problems for a singer’s vocal chords. And in the final months of pregnancy, when many women have difficulty breathing, opera singers have to learn different breathing techniques. Brugger worked with a coach to learn how to breathe “underneath her abdomen.”
“Breathing is the hardest part,” Wall said. “The baby is sharing so much oxygen, it’s harder to sing those really long phrases.”
While the hormonal benefits tend to disappear soon after childbirth, there are some lasting effects. Wall noted that during her first pregnancy, her rib cage expanded by four inches. Such growth might worry the typical size-conscious woman, but opera singers welcome the extra inches.
Sweat and tears
Soo-Kyung Hong, 34, the cellist of Trio con Brio, will not be performing at the Kennedy Center in March. She’ll be in Denmark, preparing to give birth to her first child as her husband, Jens Elvekjaer, the pianist in the trio, performs in Washington without her.
“Another cellist is taking my place,” Hong said. “It will be two weeks until my due date, and it is too much risk.”
So far, she has maintained her arduous performance schedule, but had to plan for the interruption. Hong says she and her husband put children off for years because their tour schedules, as many as 90 concerts each year, made it difficult to have a child.
And despite her “small stomach” in the first trimester, the pregnancy was already affecting Hong’s performances. During the Copenhagen Chamber Music Festival, the trio played Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” a wrenching piece famous for where it was composed: in a German prison camp in 1941.
“I was so taken by the music, praising the eternity of Jesus Christ at the end of the world, that I just started sobbing during the piece,” Hong said. “It was this terrible five minutes. My eyes were running, my nose was running. I had to bury my head in my cello.”
It was the first time she had cried during a performance.
“Later, some people said, ‘It’s probably your hormones,’ ” Hong said, laughing.
Regni, too, had difficult performances. When she was eight months pregnant, she underestimated the strain of performing in the 100-degree heat and performed with the NSO for the annual Fourth of July concert on the National Mall.
“I couldn’t drink a lot of water, so I brought ice chips and freezer packs,” Regni said. “Every time the camera wasn’t on the orchestra I put them on my neck and face.”
Regni says her greatest surprise, one that many pregnant musicians note, is how her daughter responded to music in utero.
“She would react very violently to contemporary music,” Regni said, laughing.
But she took to certain instruments: “Every time the sax played, she’d stop kicking and I could feel her calm down.”
Time will tell whether her daughter truly has a love of the saxophone, but if Wall is any indication, tastes change after the womb.
“It’s funny, my mom is a cellist and she couldn’t play past seven months because I would kick the cello right off her stomach,” Wall said. “But the sound of the cello now — to me, it’s the best sound on Earth.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
National Ballet of Canada performs Christopher Wheeldon’s adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic.
Review from www.artsATL.com: German countertenor Andreas Scholl’s voice hypnotizes in recital at Spivey Hall
December 4, 2012
Andreas Scholl is one of the world’s leading countertenors.
Countertenors are what one would call a rare breed among classical singers. Alfred Deller set the stage during the 1950s and ’60s in terms of popularizing the sound of a male alto who sings exclusively in his falsetto range. But it remains unusual to have the opportunity to attend an opera or recital in which an accomplished countertenor performs. It was thrilling, then, to hear German countertenor Andreas Scholl and his wife, pianist Tamar Halperin, present a recital of standard Renaissance and Baroque fare as well as 19th-century “German Lieder” Sunday afternoon at Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall.
“The time of the Olympic singer — higher, louder, faster — is over,” Scholl remarked when we spoke by telephone last week. “My primary task is to communicate a composition that I have not composed myself, to serve the composer using both vocal color and rhetorical tools.”
And while Scholl’s countertenor voice lacks Olympic power, it is without question an otherworldly sound that could penetrate the atmosphere of any recital hall.
Scholl began his musical training as a boy soprano in the Kiedricher Chorbuben. His voice broke at 13, but his vocal coach encouraged him to continue singing in his “head voice,” assuring him that he possessed a special gift. Now in his mid-40s, Scholl is admired for a seamless purity of sound, pervasive in his interpretations of Bach, Purcell and Handel. On the opera stage he has sung Giulio Cesare, Bertarido (“Rodelinda”) and Arsace (“Partenope”) to great acclaim.
Sunday’s recital featured several songs drawn from a new CD recording, a collaboration between Scholl and Halperin called “Wanderer,” and the duo’s musical chemistry was evident, refined in every way.
The opus includes several selections from Brahms’ 49 Deutsche Volkslieder, including “In Stiller Nacht” (“In the Quiet Night”), with a haunting text by Jesuit poet Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld. In the complete poem, a bystander recounts seeing Jesus weep in the Garden of Gethsemane before the Passion and Crucifixion. But the two strophes that Brahms set don’t specifically outline this context. Scholl’s singing was simply hypnotic as he delivered every phrase with the utmost care.
The concert began with familiar songs by lutenists John Dowland and Thomas Campion. From the start, Halperin anticipated her husband’s desire for rubato and flexibility. And Scholl’s singing was breathtaking, especially in Purcell’s “Music for Awhile,” a piece excerpted from the 1692 Dryden and Lee play “Oedipus” that features a wealth of text painting.
With a detailed introduction, Scholl highlighted a set of three Haydn songs: “Despair,” “The Wanderer” and “Recollection.” The canzonettas are settings of poetry by Anne Hunter, a late-18th-century socialite who organized cultural salons in London while Haydn was composing and conducting his symphonies there. They are rarely performed and rather instrumental in quality.
Schubert’s songs also figured prominently throughout the afternoon: the ethereal “Du bist die Ruh”(“You Are the Peace”), the angst-filled “An Mignon” and the precursor to his unfinished symphony, “Abendstern”(“Evening Star”).
After intermission, Scholl revealed himself as the ultimate storyteller in a thoughtful grouping of songs about youth and death, which included “Der Jüngling auf dem Hügel” (“The Youth on the Hill”), a dramatic tale begun with quiet, pastoral simplicity that progressed to a black cortège accompanied by a tolling bell in the piano. Finally, we heard resplendent optimism punctuated by a triple forte chord, compliments of Halperin, that resounded seemingly forever. The final lines of text read, “And as the stars came out and the moon sailed up, he read in the stars a lofty message of hope.”
It was a recital that passed far too quickly, with just one encore. Scholl gave us a preview of his upcoming pop album with a song by Israeli musician and composer Idan Raichel. Interestingly, it was an updated text setting of “In Stiller Nacht.”