Saturday, February 12, 2022

Lead with your strong suit

I recently saw two quite lovely recitals presented by a regional concert opera organization. I intend to speak about concepts here and not individuals, so I will name no one.

My title comes from a popular strategy in many card games--lead with your long suit.  Bridge, hearts, even spades--it's the same. Another card-game metaphor is very useful as well--a card laid is a card played. You can't take it back.

I mention two recitals. Both were quite lovely. For one of the recitals a highly skilled young gentleman sang a themed program based around his experience as a church musician and churchman. The selections were appropriate, and the performances were really quite nice. 

For another of the recitals, a young African-American opera singer presented arias and songs often associated, sometimes exclusively associated, with African-American singers we admire. I do not wish to be harsh, but without changing the selections, I would have ordered them differently. Some of the songs were by African American woman composers Undine Smith Moore and Justine Bonds. To my mind, these were the best part of the recital. There were other songs that showed the singer's gift with song. I would have preferred to have the operatic arias as encores to a regular program than as the first selections. I don't mean to suggest she performed these pieces badly, but merely that if they had been at the end of the program, an emotional connection between singer and audience would have been much more firmly established. (There is a chance that the heightened connection and the attention paid to the program up to that point would have had the singer in a heightened vocal state that might have delivered the arias even more effectively.)

I don't have the qualifications to offer advice, but if I had, these have been some of the suggestions I might use. Both of these singers are fine young singers. They are working singers, while I never was. But I have lived a much longer life than they have, and have spent a substantial amount of time in the auditorium and behind the table. 

I want to hear both of these singers again. I think they are both very good. 

Just one more thing, and this is just a personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. There is never, ever, EVAR! a reason to sing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" on a recital.  

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