Impressive final recital as Isabella Moore prepares for study abroad

‘Vivere per Amare’ (Live to Love) – final recital for Postgrad. Diploma in Voice
Arias, Lieder and Songs

Isabella Moore (soprano), Bruce Greenfield (piano)

Adam Concert Room, New Zealand School of Music

Friday 20 September 2013, 6.15pm

A massive thunderstorm, such as we seldom get in Wellington, prevented me from arriving at the recital in time; hail and heavy rain meant I had to stop en route because I simply could not see the surface of the road.  However, it was well worthwhile persisting with the journey.  Isabella Moore has an impressive voice of wide range, an imposing platform persona, and is accomplished across a variety of composers, genres and periods.  She certainly showed us what she can do.

My colleague Lindis Taylor was also at the recital, and has given me some comments on the items I missed: “‘Porgi amor’ had quite careful scene setting before Isabella entered, with Greenfield’s piano introduction.  She entered slowly from the rear, letting her face reveal her emotions as the introductory music continued.  Her voice is not the typical creamy, Kiri-like soprano but quite hard and bright, yet it was fully expressive of her sadness.

“She sang the Ritchie songs with considerable tonal variety, giving each a distinct character.”

The first song I heard properly (as opposed to through the door from the foyer) was Richard Strauss’s Freundliche Vision, Op.48 no.1, the second Strauss lied. What first struck me was the power of Moore’s voice, her clear German language (and this was true also of French, Italian, English and Russian) and her good voice production.  Her climaxes were exciting and her soft passages tender.
Here is another excellent Samoan Strauss singer, like Aivale Cole.

It is perhaps a moot point whether the singer should modify her volume to the size of the room in which she is performing, or whether, for the benefit of those grading her diploma recital, she should show what she is capable of in terms of power and volume.  Certainly I found some of the singing too loud for the acoustic, but it was a case of power, not forcing or shouting.  I believe I have noted in a previous review that Isabella Moore uses her resonators so well; tone production is beautiful, and resonant, without a huge effort (apparently), and without a wide open mouth.  Her low notes are full of emotion, often well into the mezzo-soprano range, and her high notes are controlled.

Wagner followed: two of the Wesendonck lieder: ‘Der Engel’ and ‘Schmerzen’.  It was impressive to consider the variety of songs performed in the concert, and the sheer amount of work required to memorise them and master their performance.
Moore coped well with this demanding repertoire, though it would be pushing her voice to perform Wagner in an opera house at this stage of her career.  Both consonants and vowels were beautifully made and the powerful declamations were all in place.

After the first of two short intervals, we heard an aria by Jules Massenet: ‘Pleurez, pleurez mes yeux’ from Le Cid.  Here, as elsewhere, Bruce Greenfield’s tasteful and highly musical accompaniment was a joy.  Moore’s communication of the emotion of the piece with the audience was splendid, partly through her excellent enunciation, and her observation of the contrasts in the words.

Liszt’s song ‘Oh, quand je dors’ was convincingly performed.  I’ve always been told that singers should not exhibit teeth; that the teeth inhibit the production of tone and its full expression. However, while we saw quite a lot of incisors etc. in this song
particularly, I did not notice any effect on the quality of the sound.  The song could have sustained even more feeling and emotion.

Berlioz wrote wonderfully romantic works, and was rather ahead of his time in his invention, orchestration and word-setting. Near the top of the list is Les nuits d’été (Summer nights), and from this song cycle (usually with orchestra) Isabella Moore sang ‘Le spectre de la rose’, a setting of a poem by Gautier.  There was no strain in the voice, even on a high crescendo – but this fine song will grow more magnificent as the singer matures.

The Rachmaninov songs featured hugely expressive and demanding accompaniments, as befitted their composer, a top international pianist.  The first song, ‘Oh, never sing to me again’ was a setting of words by Pushkin.  This is a very dramatic song, and hearing it in Russian added to the effect.  The others were ‘Before my window, Lilacs, and In Spring Waters.  In these, found the sustained high volume too much. Yet Moore proved again that she can do delicacy too, notably in the second song.

To opera next, and Bellini’s ‘Casta diva’ from Norma.  As elsewhere, Bruce Greenfield was a one-man orchestra.  It was a very lovely rendering, but I’m not sure that bel canto is Moore’s ‘thing’. However, Lindis Taylor said “I was pretty impressed by her Norma performance which was clearly intended to be the show-piece and it was. The way she dramatically shifted gear for the cabaletta, from the pure sacred utterance, and then the prayer specifically asking for the return of her lover. And her ensuring that we understood the meaning of the words as distinct from aiming simply to astonish us with her vocal histrionics; they were certainly impressive.  The whole thing certainly made a dramatic impact.”  There were a few inaccuracies, but apart from that, Moore demonstrated the flexibility of her voice.

In the lighthearted final item, Flanders and Swann’s ‘A word in my ear’ Greenfield was the miming fellow-comedian.  This item included a ‘Farewell’, then just as the audience (and the adjudicating lecturers!) thought it was over, we were stopped, and the song became ‘I’m tone deaf’, a hilarious travesty of a singer – but hard to manage to sing out of tune, after all that training and practice!

A pity after putting so much work into a sizeable printed programme, to have it marred by mistakes, words missed out, and howlers, such as Strauss ‘paved the way for his predecessors’, and the muddling of Salzburg and Vienna, and their respective roles in Mozart’s career. A glance at an atlas could have cleared this up, and passing the notes to someone else to read through would, hopefully, have got rid of the mistakes.  Apparently people recall the opera by Massenet by the one aria, yet in the next line “it seems to have been forgotten”!

Worse than these was perhaps the use of the translations. I looked up the relevant website that was the source of most of them, out of curiosity (using the names of the translators to get to it).  It stated, over the name of Bard Suverkrop “Copying of the text (cut and paste) not permitted” and that the web address and name of the author should be given when public use was made of the translations.  We had the names, but… was copyright permission obtained?  If it was, this should be shown.  If not, the law has been broken.


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