Performance Santa Fe presents recitals by artists in town to perform at
Santa Fe Opera. The Scottish Rite Center is a Masonic temple built in 1912
containing an intimate theater. It houses a fully outfitted stage with a
painted back drop and scrims created with the kind of fine workmanship seldom
seen in today’s theatrical settings. On July 31, 2016, against the
ethereal beauty of this setting, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick
gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early
nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the
audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma
at Los Angeles Opera.
Wearing a dress with a black top and a red and black printed skirt, Meade
and the black-clad Illick began their program with an emotion-filled rendition
of the aria “Io son l’umile ancella” (“I am the humble
servant”) from Francesco Cilea’s infrequently performed opera
Adriana Lecouvreur. It showed Meade’s ability to immediately
grasp the psyche of her audience in her capable hands.
They continued with three of the five songs Franz Liszt composed in the
early eighteen forties to texts by Victor Hugo: Enfant, si j’étais
roi (Child, if I were King), Oh, Quand je dors (Oh!
When I sleep), and Comment, disaient ils (How, they
asked). In the first song Meade sang a magnificent messa di voce, swelling
to a fortissimo and diminishing to the finest thread of sound. A quick look at
the text of Quand je dors tells the reader that it’s about
dreaming of a lover. Meade and Illick’s opulent tones soon made the
meaning clear. In Comment disaient ils Meade and Illick again showed
the smoothness of their combined, well-nurtured lyricism. The soprano also
demonstrated a full range of dynamics and the perfect trill we heard in
Angela Meade. Photo Credit: Dario Acosta.
Vincenzo Bellini, the composer of Norma, wrote songs such as the
familiar, melodic Vaga Luna and the less well-known but equally
interesting Ma rendi pur contento. Neither song is “Casta
Diva”, but Meade sang both with gorgeous tone and saved her golden age
operatic ability for the next aria: “Pace, pace mio dio” from
Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. Forza is no
longer in the usual repertoire because big juicy voices like that of Zinka
Milanov are hard to come by. A major opera company needs to revive
Forza for Meade because she sings that aria magnificently and
international audiences should be able to hear her perform it with orchestra.
If there had been an intermission, I think it would have been placed at this
juncture. Unfortunately, at this recital there was no chance to mingle and get
acquainted with other Santa Fe concertgoers.
Meade’s singing of Marietta’s bittersweet “Glück das mir
verblieb” (“Joy that remains with me”) from Erich Wolfgang
Korngold’s 1920 opera Die Tote Stadt left listeners
contemplating the lost loves of their own lives as the artists left the stage.
Illick and Meade returned to render thoughtful interpretations of three
well-known songs by Richard Strauss: Zueignung and
Allerseelen from Op 10, and Cäcilie from Op. 27.
For their finale, the artists performed “Ebben? Ne andro
lontana” (“Well, then? I’ll go father away”) from
Alfredo Catalani’s 1892 Alpine opera that ends in an avalanche, La
Wally. Actually, Catalani had written the aria as a separate work but
added it to the opera before its premiere. Maria Callas made the aria famous
with her recording, but Meade’s rendition showed what a more voluminous
voice could do for this piece. At its end she was greeted with a huge wave of
applause. When we listen to Meade, we begin to know the sound of golden age
Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur, “Io son l’umile
ancella.” Liszt: Enfant, Si j’étais roi, Oh! Quand je
dors, Comment disaient ils Bellini: Vaga Luna, Ma rendi pur
contento Verdi: La forza del destino, “Pace, pace mio
Dio.” Korngold: Die tote Stadt, "Mariettas Lied" . R. Strauss:
Zueignung, Allerseelen, Cäcilie Catalani: La Wally,
“Ebben? Ne andro lontana.”
Scottish Rite Center, Sante Fe; July 31, 2016.