Bergitas here. Last night, my wife and I celebrated her birthday with
a trip down to Ravinia to experience one of the most extraordinary
musical events of our lives, a concert by the incomparable Audra
McDonald. This Julliard-trained singer has a bit of opera in her
background - and won one of her three Tony Awards for a role in Master
Class - but is using concert platforms across the country to present to
the public the work of exciting new composers in the musical theater
arena. Much of the repertoire we heard last night was highly complex
(several songs written by a grandson of Richard Rodgers, Adam Guettel)
- and she sang it all without a shred of music in front of her - and
much of it would have been perfectly appropriate on an art song evening.
This was consummate singing on every level, with a voice capable of
myriad colors and spanning a death-defying range. The basic sound is so
beautiful - and she can shade it down to almost nothing or swell to
wall-shaking forte's. Most importantly, though, is the exquisite
musicality with which she sings even the most difficult pieces - a la
Janet Baker. (I'd love to hear her do Gretchen am Spinnrade. . . or
Morgen!) How exciting to hear a performer who is not content to cater
to the lowest denominator, but who pushes the envelop and asks us to do
the same. The audience was a capacity crowd in Ravinia's Martin
Theater (but there were a few people who left at intermission,
including people on both sides of us in our seats towards the back) who
gave her multiple standing ovations. And when it was all done, she
came out for some CD signings and patiently signed the CDs of at least a
hundred concert-goers. This is a great and gracious artist who is to be
Opera fans should make sure to see - if you haven't already - her
riveting performance on the Michael Tilson Thomas Gershwin Centennial
Gala. (She sang some of the arias from Porgy and Bess.) Opera fans
should also hope that if and when a film of Master Class is made (I
know Faye Dunaway has explored this possibility) that Audra McDonald is
a part of it. Lastly, opera fans should hope that Audra McDonald
finds time in her skyrocketing career to at least touch on full-blown
opera. I would give anything to see her in the lead of The Consul. . .
as the mother in Amahl. . .or Jenufa.
She would be incredible.
What a privilege to have been in the present of such a talent.
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Greg Berg Racine, WI