The first half of her recital was devoted to German lieder. She began with a set of three familiar works by Schubert: ìDie Forelle,î ìDu bist die Ruhî and ìHeidenroeslein.î She approached these with appropriate restraint, emphasizing the text, phrasing and vocal placement.
This was followed by Schubertís trio, ìDer Hirt auf dem Felsen,î op. 129, for soprano, piano and clarinet. One of Schubertís last works, this piece fluctuates from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair, ostensibly expressing Schubertís thoughts of his own mortality. The musicians performed with near abandon, reaching a crescendo at ìJe weiter meine Stimme dringt, je weiter die Stimme dringt, je heller, je heller sie wieder klingtî (ìThe further my voice penetrates, the further the voice penetrates, the lighter, the more brightly it sounds againî), which called for stunning vocal gymnastics.
The first half closed with five of the six lieder from op. 68 (the so-called ìBrentano Liederî) by Richard Strauss. Devilishly difficult, these pieces required perfect intonation, control and placement, all of which Christy performed with seeming ease. The last of this set, ìAmor,î portrayed Christyís coquettish side, a fitting preview of her upcoming performance of Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos) at La Scala later this season.
The second half was devoted to American music. Premiered by Eleanor Steber and more recently championed by the likes of Dawn Upshaw, Barberís ìKnoxville Summer of 1915,î op. 24, has become a standard amongst American singers. When performed with piano accompaniment, the range of stylistic choices made by Barber is starkly revealed, which demonstrates Barberís lyrical best to percussive rhythms ‡la Prokofiev or Bartok. The challenges to the performers are daunting. As throughout the recital, Christy performed with precision as to phrasing and dynamics. Her tone was at all times focused, bright and ringing. Well done.
Christy then concluded the second half with two works by William Bolcom ó ìAmorî from volume 1 of his Cabaret Songs and ìMuffinís ariaî from his opera, A Wedding, which she premiered at the Chicago Lyric. As with the Strauss, ìAmorî showed her as the classic femme fatale. ìMuffinís aria,î on the other hand, showed her introspective side.
She segued from ìMuffinís Ariaî to her encore, Pucciniís ìO mio babbino caroî (Gianni Schicchi), by explaining that she recently married in Italy and planned to sing this on the bridge in Florence but ìchickened out.î In a word, marvelous.
Christy was accompanied by pianist Kelly Kuo and, in “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” by clarinetist John Klinghammer. Kuo was a true musical partner throughout the program. And, Klinghammer performed his role with aplomb.
At all times, Christy appeared at ease, as if she were in her natural element. While recitals do not call for dramatic action, it is clear that she is a singing actress of the first order.