The first half of her recital was devoted to German lieder. She began with a set of three familiar works by Schubert: “Die Forelle,” “Du bist die Ruh” and “Heidenroeslein.” She approached these with appropriate restraint, emphasizing the text, phrasing and vocal placement.
This was followed by Schubert’s trio, “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” op. 129, for soprano, piano and clarinet. One of Schubert’s last works, this piece fluctuates from the heights of ecstasy to the depths of despair, ostensibly expressing Schubert’s thoughts of his own mortality. The musicians performed with near abandon, reaching a crescendo at “Je weiter meine Stimme dringt, je weiter die Stimme dringt, je heller, je heller sie wieder klingt” (“The further my voice penetrates, the further the voice penetrates, the lighter, the more brightly it sounds again”), which called for stunning vocal gymnastics.
The first half closed with five of the six lieder from op. 68 (the so-called “Brentano Lieder”) by Richard Strauss. Devilishly difficult, these pieces required perfect intonation, control and placement, all of which Christy performed with seeming ease. The last of this set, “Amor,” portrayed Christy’s coquettish side, a fitting preview of her upcoming performance of Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos) at La Scala later this season.
The second half was devoted to American music. Premiered by Eleanor Steber and more recently championed by the likes of Dawn Upshaw, Barber’s “Knoxville Summer of 1915,” op. 24, has become a standard amongst American singers. When performed with piano accompaniment, the range of stylistic choices made by Barber is starkly revealed, which demonstrates Barber’s lyrical best to percussive rhythms àla Prokofiev or Bartok. The challenges to the performers are daunting. As throughout the recital, Christy performed with precision as to phrasing and dynamics. Her tone was at all times focused, bright and ringing. Well done.
Christy then concluded the second half with two works by William Bolcom — “Amor” from volume 1 of his Cabaret Songs and “Muffin’s aria” from his opera, A Wedding, which she premiered at the Chicago Lyric. As with the Strauss, “Amor” showed her as the classic femme fatale. “Muffin’s aria,” on the other hand, showed her introspective side.
She segued from “Muffin’s Aria” to her encore, Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” (Gianni Schicchi), by explaining that she recently married in Italy and planned to sing this on the bridge in Florence but “chickened out.” In a word, marvelous.
Christy was accompanied by pianist Kelly Kuo and, in "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen," by clarinetist John Klinghammer. Kuo was a true musical partner throughout the program. And, Klinghammer performed his role with aplomb.
At all times, Christy appeared at ease, as if she were in her natural element. While recitals do not call for dramatic action, it is clear that she is a singing actress of the first order.