I'd like to thank all the listers -- too many to name here -- for
their quick, enthusiastic replies to my query about Canadian
baritone Kevin McMillan, who was pinch hitting this weekend for an
ailing Thomas Hampson. I went to McMillan's March 1 recital at
Wheaton College near Chicago and was delighted I did.
The first half of the program was three Haydn songs and one song each
by Warlock, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Quilter, Britten, and Finzi. The
high points of this brief half were Vaughan Williams's "Rolling in the
Dew" and Britten's "Midnight on the Great Western," the first deft and
witty, the second sung with lovely line and control.
After intermission, Die Schone Mullerin.
Before he began to sing, McMillan spoke a little bit about the cycle
[I like it when singers talk], noting that Schubert wrote many of the
songs while in quarrantine with the illness that would finally kill
him. McMillan also charmingly asked the audience (more about *them*
later) to hold the "ovation" until the end. They did.
I'm glad my first "live" experience of this cycle was this one.
McMillan moved through all the moods of the songs with subtlety and
intelligence, his open, expressive face and floppy brown bangs just
perfect for the look of the young man. Every gesture and vocal
inflection served the evolving story -- nothing was pulled from the
lieder singer's ready bag of effects. The effect, especially from the
green ribbon songs through to the end, was charming, moving, and
The accompanist was Gabriel Dobner. I don't know if he and McMillan
work together often, but they seemed to be on the same wavelength. I
noticed only a few tempo mismatches here and there.
A friend who went with me, a student tenor at DePaul U., said what
impressed him most was the way McMillan put his voice completely at
the service of the texts and yet retained such vocal beauty.
This vocal beauty was put before an audience that featured a ringing
cell phone, a huge ring of keys crashing to the floor, and several
hundred people who never raised their faces from the texts long enough
to look at the man singing for them. I suspect some of them still think
they heard Hampson.
Finally, a plug ... for the DePaul University production of Marriage
of Figaro. Next Friday night and Sunday afternoon at the Merle Reskin
Theatre near the Chicago Hilton and Towers. It's in English, but the
Count is still forgiven and I still cried.
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