17 Aug 2016

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Since Crocetto had a major success as Anna in Rossini’s Maometto II in 2012, she opened the recital with an aria from that composer's Semiramide, a tour de force for both singer and pianist. Rossini wrote Semiramide for his wife, Isabella Colbran, who was known for her accurate dramatic coloratura. “Bel raggio lusinghier” is the opera’s major aria and in Santa Fe both artists performed it with exquisite articulation.

I wonder if these artists knew that Angela Meade had sung the same three Richard Strauss songs, Zueignung, Morgen, and Cäcilie, in the same hall a few days earlier. In any case, they are wonderful songs and both Crocetto and Meade sang them with exquisite grace. In all probability the Rachmaninov segment that included Zdes khorosho (How fair this place), Ne poy kravitsa pri mne (Don’t sing, my beauty), and Otrivok iz A. Musset (An excerpt from Alfred de Musset), brought many art song lovers to the recital. Here Crocetto proved her ability to put the text over when even the most frequent concertgoers might not know the meaning of the Russian words. Listening to her vocal colors, one could think of being in a majestic natural setting with with a lover. The message of the second song served to remind listener of past homes and the last song invited the audience to empathize with Musset’s hopeless lover.

In 1838, when Franz Liszt and Marie d’Agoult stayed in Italy they read Petrarch’s works together and the readings inspired the composition of Three Petrarch Sonnets. In Pace non trovo (I can’t find peace) the lyrics are replete with extreme contrasts, so Liszt expressed them with forward-looking harmonies and constant agitation. Crocetto and Sanikidze made the urgency of the poet’s love real to their twenty-first century audience. The second song, Benedetto sia l’giorno (Blessed be the day) was quite appropriate in this uniquely beautiful old hall far from the crowds and commercialism of a less appreciative city. Toward the end of I vidi in terra (On earth revealed), Petrarch wrote a line that describes much of this recital: “So sweet a concert made as ne’er was given mortal ear.” Crocetto’s high notes are extraordinary; her middle range is warm, and her chest tones remind the listener of singers we can now only hear on records.

For their finale, Crocetto and Sanikidze offered an aria from Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah: “Ain’t it a Pretty Night?” Crocetto's phrasing was regal, her diction understandable, and her tones luscious. During this selection and every other work on this program, Sanikidze partnered her with exquisite playing. Since the soprano had sung jazz earlier in her career, her encores included Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are and “My Heart Is So Full of You” from Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella.

This summer, Performance Santa Fe presented recitals by Daniel Okulitch and Keri Alkema with pianists Glen Roven and Joe Illick; Angela Meade with Illick, Leah Crocetto with Tamara Sanikidze, as well as Joshua Hopkins and Ben Bliss with Illick. We can expect them to have a similarly fine roster next season.

Maria Nockin


Rossini: Semiramide “Bel raggio lusinghier” R. Strauss: Zueignung, Morgen, Cäcilie Rachmaninov: How Fair this Place, Don’t Sing to Me, my Beauty, Why is my Sick Heart Beating so Frantically? Liszt: Three Petrach Sonnets Floyd: Susannah, “Ain’t it a Pretty Night?”


Kern: All the Things You Are; Loesser: The Most Happy Fella, “My Heart Is So Full of You”.

Scottish Rite Center, Santa Fe; August 4, 2016.