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Subject: VOCAL ARTS DC opens season with blissful Ben Bliss and lovely Lachlen Glen (11-15-16)
From: Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Alan Savada <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 16 Nov 2016 12:34:14 -0500

text/plain (116 lines)


Tenor Ben Bliss returned to Washington where he previously graced the stage at Wolf Trap in the Young Artists program, but also at the lovely Phillips Collection in Vocal Colors.He was joined by Lachlen Glen for the opening of this season's Vocal Arts DC series now moved to the University of DC since the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center is closed all year for renovations! The varied and exciting program was also funded by the Gerald Perman Fund for Emerging Artists.

RICHARD STRAUSS Selections from Sechs Lieder von Adolf Friedrich Graf von Schack, op. 17  


“Nur Mut!”  

“Barkarole”  from Vier Lieder, op. 27  


LILI BOULANGER from Clairières dans le ciel  

“Un poète disait”                            

“Nous nous aimerons tant”                            

“Vous m’avez regardé avec toute votre âme”                            

“Les lilas qui avaient fleuri”                          





JOHN GRUEN from Three by e.e. cummings                 

“Spring is Like a Perhaps Hand ”                  

“Lady will you come with me into”

LOWELL LIEBERMANN from Six Songs on Poems by Henry W. Longfellow -“The Arrow and the Song”
 NED ROREM “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” 

THEODORE CHANLER “I Rise When You Enter"


“The Children and Sir Nameless” 

“The Last Rose of Summer” 

“The Choirmaster’s Burial” from Winter Words                                                 


EDEN AHBEZ “Nature boy” 

HAROLD ARLEN “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”

RAY CHARLES “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”       

Encore:Maria from West Side Story                          

(John Gruen’s works are provided courtesy of his daughter, Julia Gruen, to whom his cummings cycle is dedicated.)

VOCAL ARTS DC is an amazing organization and is now over 25 years old having started its first season with the likes of Renee Fleming and continuing this year with an awesome assembly: Christian Gerharher, NYFOS with Steven Blier, Michael Barrett, Antonina Chehovska and Alexey Lavrov, Sandrine Piau, Lisette Oropesa, Anne Schwanewilms and Piotr Beczala. Check out for info and tickets!

We were welcomed by Director Peter Russell who asked us to silence our phones and reminded us of the interruption last season of Javier Camarena by someone's phone ringing off the Triumphal March from Aida mid-recital; he said that Aida was not on the evening's program!

The Theatre of the Arts at UDC is very different than the Kennedy Center's Terrace in that it is shallower, has a large pit and is much less intimate, but the acoustics here are superb and we heard every word and note perfectly thanks the amazing diction from Mr. Bliss and superb piano of Mr. Glen.

I don't know a soul who doesn't like Strauss songs and there were indeed blissful (excuse the pun) with beautiful swells and high notes.

"Nur mut" made me feel as if Mr. Bliss could venture into some lighter heldentenor rep with "Himmels Blau." Morgen was more than novel at the almost ritard mode the performers chose and Mr. Glen had such restraint I felt as if I was carried into that "Gluckes stummes Schweigen" or "joy's speechless silence."

I don't ever recall hearing any songs of Lili Boulanger and these were a treat indeed having the precursor feel to Debussy, but not that angst I so often feel with his music. The final note of "Les lisas..." offered us a beaut of a long held pianissimo.

The Tosti was the opposite, almost feeling like a Rossini race/tongue twister.

The unpublished songs of Mr. Gruen are clearly novel as nobody has ever heard them I am sure. I, however, loved the grandiose flourish of the piano for the Liebermann and the theatrical Chanler. Some of the Britten selections were even novel to my guest, a British musician, and I think my favorite was the final one with it's beautiful a capella start and finish.

The encore offered some gorgeous floated high notes that really sent us home fulfilled.

Mr. Bliss offered some incisive and periodic explanations from the stage giving a very relaxed feel to the entire evening which was a true example of how a recital should be arranged and executed; two artists like these are rare, and what a treat to have them together!

VADC off to a great season!

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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