A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler / Music

A Singer’s Notes, 7: Three mezzos (and three more)

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Lucille Beer
Lucille Beer

Our area is the best in the country for hearing young singers. If you go regularly to Tanglewood, Marlboro, and Glimmerglass, you have the absolute cream of operatic talent pre-selected for you each summer. Better yet, you hear these marvellous young ones singing a role, not an audition. During just one summer in the ’90s at Glimmerglass you might have heard Charlotte Hellekant as the Composer in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, and Michelle DeYoung and Theodora Hanslowe as young apprentice artists. Ms. Hellekant and Ms. DeYoung are now international stars, and Ms. Hanslowe is a Metropolitan Opera regular. This past summer James Levine’s Tanglewood Music Center fielded a tremendous array of young talent. With very little effort we can hear the best of the best. In the last few days I have heard three really good ones at various stages in their careers. Sasha Cooke, who will join the illustrious IMG roster in June, sang in Union College’s Memorial Chapel. She was an electric presence, completely at ease, flaunting her ease, responding at every turn to the next idea. Superb was her singing of Berlioz’s great lament “Sur les lagunes.” This striding song has everything from outbursts to murmuring, and she nailed it all. It made me say to myself, “Now I have heard this song as my ear hears it.” Since she was in complete control of the details, she etched the shape of the whole indelibly.

In a Troy Chromatics Concert at the Troy Music Hall, I heard the marvellous voice of Michelle DeYoung. Most wonderful to me in her singing was a still, large rendition of Mahler’s credo song, “Ich bin der Welt Abhandengekommen.” Ms. DeYoung has a kind of heroic grandeur and did not dilute it in this most intimate confession. Good for her! It was a very strong death wish that I got from her—direct, not artsy. Mention must be made of the superb playing pianist Kevin Murphy did in this song. The all-important bars after the singer has finished singing he made almost into an epic of its own- timeless, played with perfect hearing. Lucille Beers recital in Schenectady, which included “Frauenliebe und Leben” of Schumann, showed that she has the finest legato I know. Etched forever in my memory is Lucille’s singing of the sixth movement of Verdi’s Requiem. The Latin begins “Lux aeterna, luceat eis, Domine.” She had in the “u” vowel of “Lux” and in the “o” vowel of “Domine” a connection with the signified which was primal. Especially in the word “Domine,” she found an intimacy, a private prayer in the “o” vowel. Lucille also has the ability to connect these vowels one to the next with a large kind of phrasing which erases time. I know of no other singer who can connect as well. Lucille, a Met singer, now lives in our area. Go to hear her whenever you have a chance. The voice is the only instrument made by God, it is often said, and these three world-class artists show the divinity of the creator.

I first was on stage with Lorraine Hunt when she was playing viola. It was a Handel opera in Jordan Hall. Jan de Gaetani was never my teacher, but she taught me the most fundamental things. It is much more difficult for me to believe that such voices are forever gone, than it is for me to believe in a larger being and a larger existence. Such singing simply cannot die and is sounding somewhere, even now. These have been my gold standard mezzos. Now it has become the preternatural singing acting of Charlotte Hellekant. Even though it is a concert version, may I urge you to go to the Berlin Philharmonic’s new Digital Concert Hall, March 5 and 6 of 2010, where you will hear and SEE great vocal acting in Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. http://www.instantencore.com/concert/details.aspx?PId=5038837 The baritone is Matthias Goerne. The conductor will be Christoph von Dohnanyi, to the manner born.

I guess that makes three more. I love them all.

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