On November 8, 2014, the recitalist was soprano Sondra Radvanovsky who was familiar to the Los Angeles audience because of her acclaimed performances of Tosca and Suor Angelica.
Accompanied by her long time collaborator, virtuoso pianist Anthony Manoli, she sang a challenging but not overly imaginative program of arias and songs in Italian, Russian, French, and English. Opening with a carefully crafted version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s early Ah Perfido, she showed her ability to handle both the declamatory and decorative aspects of this concert aria.
She followed it with three short songs by the composer for whose music she is best known, Giuseppe Verdi. He wrote the first two, In solitaria stanza (In a Lonely Room), and Perduta ho la pace (I Have Lost My Peace), before the premiere of his first opera, Oberto. The final song, Stornello (Italian Street Song), dates from the same year as his opera, La forza del destino. Although the songs are not major musical works, they are precursors of Verdi’s later operas and with each short piece Radvanovsky showed her ability to put a story across.
The most interesting pieces on this program were four enchanting but rarely sung romances by Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninov: A Dream, Oh, Never Sing to Me Again, How Fair this Spot, and Spring Waters. I hope someday she will sing a whole evening of Russian songs. Rachmaninov and other major Russian composers wrote many wonderful pieces that are seldom performed.
To complete the first part of her recital Radvanovsky, whose forte is opera rather than song, regaled her adoring crowd with “Pace, pace mio Dio” from La forza del destino. She had a magnificent command of dynamics and during this and several of her other arias she showed that she could take her sound down to a pianissimo and then gradually increase it until it became a full fledged fortissimo. (The technical term for it is messa di voce).
Radvanovsky, who had worn a form fitting dark gold taffeta for the first half, returned in bright green silk after the intermission to sing a trio of songs by Henri Duparc: Chanson Triste (Sad Song), Extase (Ecstasy), and Au pays o˘ se fait le guerre (To the Country Where War is Waged). Here and in her rendition of the aria that followed them, “Pleurez, Pleurez mes jeux” (Cry, Cry my Eyes) from Jules Massenet’s Le Cid, she showed her mastery of the French idiom as well as her ability to convey the beauty of sadness and tragic memories.
The soprano sometimes spoke to the audience and at this point she brought her fans back from the contemplation of tragedy with three lighter but thoroughly charming American songs by Aaron Copland: Simple Gifts, Long Time Ago, and At the River. For the finale, Radvanovsky sang a rousing, virtuosic performance of the Bolero from Verdi’s I vespri Siciliani (The Sicilian Vespers). She sang that her senses were intoxicated. She was right, her audience was drunk on fine art as they listened to her encores: “Io son l’umile ancella” (I am the Humble Handmaiden) from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, “I Could Have Danced All Night” from Loewe’s My Fair Lady, “Vissi d’arte” ( I Live for Art) from Puccini’s Tosca and “O mio babbino caro” (Oh, My Dearest Daddy) from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.
Both Radvanovsky and Manoli gave bravura performances and their audience would have listened to them all night if they had continued to perform. Although the house was not much more than half full, this was a happy audience that can be counted upon to come out for more fine recitals at the Dorothy Chandler.
product_title=Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles
product_by=A review by Maria Nockin
product_id=Above: Sondra Radvanovsky