Benefit concert for James Rodgers

James Rodgers, tenor, with Jillian Zack, piano

Songs by Tosti, Duparc, Rachmaninov; Winter Words cycle by Benjamin Britten; Arias from Don Giovanni by Mozart and Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky; ‘Sings Harry’ cycle by Douglas Lilburn

Adam Concert Room, Victoria University

Sunday 14 March 2010 7pm

It was good to hear James Rodgers again, after his years studying in the United States.  He provided a generous recital of an interesting variety of works, accompanies by his girlfriend, an excellent pianist.  His spoken introductions were informal and succinct.

The Tosti songs proved that Rodgers has become an very accomplished singer.  But both he and the accompanist had not taken sufficiently into account the size and acoustics of the room they were performing in.  One was reminded of the phrase ‘Never sing louder than lovely’.  Unfortunately, he did – frequently.

I began to wonder if the singer had lost some of the lyrical tenderness his voice formerly had.  I found that he had not, in quiet passages. 

On the whole his words were clear, but less so when the tone was too loud.  Singing in five different languages, Rodgers demonstrated mastery in all of them.

Benjamin Britten’s fine cycle drawn from poems of Thomas Hardy conveyed humour, pathos, and gave scope for variety, which the singer portrayed well.

Three lovely songs of Duparc needed more caressing than they received, especially ‘Chanson Triste’.  I could not help but contrast the performance with the way Gerard Souzay sang these masterpieces.  While Rodgers cannot be expected to be at the level of the mature Souzay, the latter’s is a model worth aspiring to.

‘Il mio tesoro’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni suited Rodgers well; both that aria and ‘Kuda, Kuda’ from Eugene Onegin were rendered in excellent fashion, with subtlety and variety of timbre and volume.

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