Laurie and I spent an enthralling weekend with vocal music. On Saturday
25 April we heard a fine English-language production of THE KAISER OF
ATLANTIS at Yale Opera. We had never heard this work, and were fascinated
with its eclectically derived but unified score and its dramatic power
(enhanced by the circumstances of its composition at the Terezin
concentration camp). Ullmann blended Kurt Weill, some Mahler, the second
Viennese school, Josef Suk, a bit of jazz, Deutschland uber Alles, and at
the end the Lutheran chorale "Ein feste Burg" in a beautifully detailed
chamber orchestration (15 instruments). The many solo or featured parts
were masterfully played by members of what did not sound like a "student"
orchestra. Conductor Timothy Long deserves much credit for leading both
instrumentalists and singers in a flawless performance.
Cynthia Bongo's simple set included large draped white sheets and a tall
tubular metal base supporting the Kaiser's office, which loomed menacingly
over the stage. Joshua Major's stage direction created real scenes among
the characters, putting life into this allegorical story of death, which
is at first denied to the Kaiser's realm when he is doggedly pursuing a
war reminiscent of World War II and then is exalted in the Lutheran
chorale when it has been restored in its natural form, outside of the
horrors of war.
The vocal work was uniformly fine. Standouts were Mark Calvert's tenor
(Harlekin), Patrick Carfizzi's bass(-baritone?) (Death), and especially
Robert Gardner's big baritone (Kaiser). Gardner's final monologue was
thrillingly sung. He has recently been auditioned for the Met Young
Gabriel Kuper asked me to report whether the pessimistic or optimistic
ending was used at Yale. It was the latter, and without having heard the
other I think that it was most effective. Death with dignity must have
seemed like a happy ending at Terezin, and it was a dignified ending for
Laurie and I were pleased to meet lister Anne Marie Gilbert of New Haven,
with whom I've corresponded for a long while. Anne Marie much enjoys
hearing the young Yale Opera voices in productions in smaller theaters
than we're used to in New York, and we agree with her.
On Sunday 26th, the Musical Masterworks chamber series, which usually
plays in Old Lyme, CT, came to Connecticut College in New London with a
wonderfully varied duo-recital by two fine vocalists, soprano Beverly Hoch
and baritone Christopheren Nomura, accompanied at the piano by that fine
musician, Masterworks director Charles Wadsworth (who is also a promoter;
his remarks at the concerts make them anything but a solemn occasion).
We've mislaid our program, but the numbers included French songs by
Debussy (four early songs--Hoch); Saint-Saens, Chausson, Gounod, and
Paladilhe (most of these duets); seven numbers from Schumann's Op. 39
LIEDRKREIS (Nomura), a Rachmaninoff set including the Vocalise (Hoch);
Copland folk songs (Nomura), and love duets by Balfe and another British
composer. The encore was a beautiful "Love Call" from the
Friml-Hammerstein ROSEMARIE. Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy couldn't
have sung it better than Hoch and Nomura.
Nomura has a major voice, powerful and steady throughout its registers.
Given the size of the voice, his control is amazing. He began one of the
Copland songs with ff and then scaled down to pppp. He showed a strong
dramatic sense throughout, but perhaps particularly in the LIEDERKREIS.
Schumann's love for Clara was intensely portrayed. In his numbers Nomura
projected humor and whimsy as well as he did the deeper emotions of love,
and created perfect rapport with his audience.
Hoch also communicated unusually well. Her instrument is marginally less
round of tone and controlled than Nomura's but she sang some lovely highs,
a real trill in the Vocalise, and on pitch at all times. The duets were
perfectly balanced and well "staged" for maximum emotional effect. Both
Hoch and Nomura displayed good diction in the five languages (the Gounod
had an Italian text). I have rarely attended a more engaging vocal
Both of these singers do a great deal with the song repertory (Hoch counts
300 recitals and Nomura 100), but each also sings opera. Hoch has credits
at St. Louis and other American companies. Nomura will soon do Mercutio
with Boston Lyric and Papageno with Berkshire Opera. I told him that he
has a Met voice and should sing there. He would not be averse to that.
Hoch said that she and Nomura have not done many duo programs, despite the
perfect chemistry between them (on stage; Nomura's fiancee attended the
concert). I encouraged her to sing with him often. Concerts like these
can do much to attract an audience for lieder.
John Deredita 16 Mansfield Road
[log in to unmask] New London, Connecticut 06320-3102