CULTURE & THE ARTS
Two Francophile Recitals at the Y
AUFBAU 63:13 June 20, 1997 p13
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
June 11, 1997 657 words
When the modern art song and the historical chanson are raised to the highest level of art and entertainment, enthralling a packed Kaufmann Auditorium at the 92nd Street Y, you would think that the major media would pay enough attention at least to run a review. But such was not the case at two of the most enjoyable song evenings in recent memory: Amy Burton & John Musto's May 10th recital, and Steven Blier's June 4th "Paris at Night," featuring Frederica von Stade but starring Helene Delavault and Kurt Ollmann.
Burton & Musto
Ms. Burton has been a mainstay of the Barrett/Blier New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) at the Y over the last decade, and was introduced by Tisch Center Director (and NYFOS co-director) Michael Barrett, slightly hyperbolically, as the possessor of "a perfect voice." Her vocal suppleness and flexibility sent a long way towards living up to that, beginning with Mozart's two charming French songs, a very serious "Als Luise die Briefe...," a pianistically brilliant "An Chloe," and the reliable "Un moto di gioia." Debussy's "Proses Lyriques" and Poulenc's Vilmorin settings are extremely demanding in length and diction; Burton proved herself equal to them. Three dynamic love songs of Granados in Spanish concluded the first half.
The featured work on the second half was her husband and accompanist John Musto's "Dove Sta Amore," a five-song cycle in English taking its title from the Ferlinghetti poem that concludes it. A stylistic grab-bag ranging from polytonal blues, folksong, and rag in three Carl Sandburg settings, to a rocking lullaby (quoting "Rockabye, Baby") set to a poem by James Agee, the piece nonetheless holds together well and was both lovingly and brilliantly sung and played.
Three Rossini showpieces ended the program with pianistic fireworks ("Anzoleta co passa la regata" is practically an etude in double-thirds), and the singer was able to let down her hair a bit and let 'er rip in two (unannounced) encores: "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from Rodgers & Hart's Pal Joey and "Meine Lippen, sie kuessen so heiss" from Lehar's Giuditta. Paris at Night
Frederica ("Flicka") von Stade was the unquestioned star and headliner, whose picture appeared in the Times, announcing "Paris at Night." And she was delightful--from her entrance with Edith Piaf's "La vie en rose" to the ukelele-accompanied "Je cherche un millionaire," to three Charles Trenet treasures, especially the Verlaine parody "Il pleut dans ma chambre" and the final trio "Boum/Y a d'la joie." She got her greatest applause paying homage to the arranger, pianist, raconteur, and confrencier of the evening, Steven Blier.
But the surprise was the exquisite French and sizzling delivery of her two colleagues, Helene Delavault - a native of Paris - and Kurt Ollmann, who lived in Paris from age 12 to 15. Next to them, Flicka's French was shown to occasional disadvantage, with improperly omitted liaisons and failure to differentiate between the final vowels of words like "joyeux" and "tendresse" (not "tendresseux"!).
It might have been nice to hear her in the pure melody of Jean Lenoir's "Parlez-moi d'amour," which was instead entrusted to Delavault. But the Parisienne sparkled in the masochistic "Tango stupefiant," "Nuits d'Argentine," "Si j'etais une cigarette," and the classic Yvette Guilbert "Quand on vous aime comme ca," as well as "La mauvaise priere," in which she played what she called "a nice girl, for a change" - about as nice as Brecht's Pirate Jenny, complete with shark imagery!
To baritone Kurt Ollmann were given three of the best-known songs of the evening, all by Jacques Brel, whose manner and intensity he imitated to a "T," as well as the only number in English, Cole Porter's appropriately chosen "You Don't Know Paree." The "planned encore," Harold Arlen's & Ira Gershwin's trio (also in English), "C'est la vie," was an unalloyed epicurean delight - as was virtually the whole evening. Despite the major media's inattention, let this not be the last of such marvelous soirees!
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