Fruitful and Sacred Ground

Yesterday’s recital in the RBA was given by soprano Simone Osborne and the very busy pianist Stephen Hargreaves.  The program began with three Mozart songs that I was not familiar with; Oiseaux, si tous les ans, Dans un bois solitaire and An Chloe.  They were unfamiliar to me but Mozartian in a pleasing, intimate way; very much songs rather than concert arias.  They got a clean, rather dramatic reading with real feeling from both parties.  Next came the Ariettes oubliées of Debussy.  Here we have texts by Verlaine of a mostly languorous ecstasy variety with a complex, very impressionistic piano part.  Indeed they really do sound like pieces composed by someone who prefers writing for the piano and Stephen brought out their somewhat ethereal qualities nicely.  Still the soprano gets to spin some very beautiful languorously ecstatic lines and there’s even one piece; Chevaux de bois, where the mood changes and the singer can have some fun.  Which Simone did.

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Next up was Simone’s nod to her role in the current run of Carmen, Delibes’ Les filles de Cadix.  As she put it, she may need to lose her top notes and gain a few low ones if she’s ever to sing Carmen but Les filles suited her perfectly.  Her presentation had been pretty dramatic and intense up to this point but here she surpassed it.  The mot juste I think is “bravura”.  It was great fun.

The next set featured three songs by young Canadian composer Matthew Emery.  He has set three Victorian texts in a style that perhaps one might have expected to hear then rather than now.  Skilful, beautiful even, but nothing musically that would have surprised a Victorian mama.  Perhaps it particularly struck me as I’m in the middle of Alex Ross’ The Rest is Noise.  Anyway, Stephen and Simone presented them in a very sympathetic and enjoyable way.

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The final songs on the program were by Cole Porter; So in Love, Miss Otis Regrets and Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.  It was a fun way to finish except we didn’t.  There was the inevitable encore.  And, almost inevitably, it was Jeanine Tesori’s The Girl in 14g.  Last time Simone sang this in the RBA it was interrupted by a medical emergency but not yesterday.  No emergencies, just a dazzling, crazy ride through just about every kind of vocalism.  She can croon, she can scat, she can belt, she can do crazy coloratura and Broadway naive.  She could probably give away a Japanese knife set.

All in all lots of fun from two very engaging performers.

Photo credit: Kevin Lloyd Photography

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