Supported by generous help from the Turnovsky Endowment Trust

Sharon Yearsley and friends in Mozart, Schubert, Britten and early Italians

By , 20/10/2010

Early Italian Arias (Caccini, Giordani, Parisotti); Three Cabaret Songs (Britten); Three songs by Schubert; Aria: ‘Porgi Amor’ (Mozart); Two songs by Sondheim

Sharon Yearsley (soprano)

Malinda Di Leva (soprano)

Chris Berentson (tenor)

Jonathan Berkahn (accompanist)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 20 October, 12.15pm

First on the programme were three Italian arias, which unfortunately I missed, which was a pity if only because apparently Sharon Yearsley accompanied herself on the piano – an unusual practice, which it would have been interesting to observe. I’m told that it gave the performance an intimate character, and that the arias were beautifully sung.

Two of the performers are members of the NBR New Zealand Opera Chorus in Wellington, and so have just been singing in Verdi’s Macbeth, which would have put them in good voice, after all the rehearsals and performances.

I noticed that the piano lid was not raised, but the sound levels and balance were appropriate for all the singers.

Two of Britten’s Cabaret Songs were sung by Malinda Di Leva, accompanied (as was the remainder of the programme) by Jonathan Berkahn. Di Leva has a good voice, especially in the lower register, but I found the top too shrill, and the timbre unpleasant at times. She sang these songs too ‘straight’, as though they were lieder; neither singer nor accompanist seemed to regard them as amusing. The tempi were too regular, there was little facial expression from the singer. They needed more of a humorous, ‘show-off’ style. This was particularly true in the first two songs: ‘Tell me the truth about love’ and ‘Funeral Blues’. The former is often performed by those able to give it the ironic vocal manner required. The third song, ‘Calypso’ had more expression. In all the songs, the words were enunciated well.

Chris Berentson followed with three of Schubert’s best-known songs. He introduced these, and recited Shakespeare’s sonnet ‘To Sylvia’. The Schubert setting followed. Berentson has a very attractive tenor voice, though there was some strain evident on the top notes. Pitch wavered from time to time, and ‘t’ and ‘s’ sounds were overdone for this acoustic. But in the main, the singing of ‘To Sylvia’, ‘Serenade’ and ‘Die Forelle’ was very good. A little more expression conveying the meaning of the words in the second and third songs would have been desirable. Both Berentson and Di Leva used the scores to sing from. Berkahn was an exemplary accompanist, though at times there was too much sustaining pedal for my taste, especially after chords at the ends of verses and items. But it was always tasteful, rhythmic and supportive of the singers.

Sharon Yearsley returned to sing Mozart’s ‘Porgi Amor’ and two songs by Sondheim: ‘Losing my Mind’ from Follies and ‘No One is Alone’ from Into the Woods. She introduced these songs briefly. Her voice is of even quality throughout her range, with more than a little vibrato. Sometimes her breathing was noisy. The Mozart aria had the appropriate touching quality; the Countess was well served.

In the Sondheim songs the words were excellent, and the style and accent appropriate to the pieces, though a little more swing from the accompanist would have helped the mood. The last song particularly featured warm tone and excellent words.

This was overall, an enjoyable recital by singers we do not regularly hear as soloists – they are to be congratulated for tackling a recital such as this.

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