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May 11, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 19
 
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Deborah Voigt at Benaroya Hall: Pretty notes not enough
Deborah Voigt at Benaroya Hall: Pretty notes not enough
by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Singing a song recital requires very different skills from singing opera. In some ways, a recital is the more difficult task. The singer has no costumes to hide behind, no sets or props to play with, no sumptuous orchestral sound to ride like a magic carpet, and no other singers to share the load. Whereas many operatic roles are actually quite short (Turandot has but 18 minutes of singing!), a two-hour recital demands nearly two hours of the most exposed singing. And theres only the pianist with whom to share the spotlight.

While some great opera singers have also become great recitalists, that list is surprisingly short. Schwarzkopf, Bjoerling, Peerce, de los Angeles, von Stade, Thomas Hampson and Marilyn Horne are a few I have particularly enjoyed on the recital stage. Others, such as Scotto, Vinson Cole, and Sam Ramey have sorely disappointed. Add, at least at this point in her career, Deborah Voigt.

The first problem with Ms. Voigts recital last week at Benaroya Hall was the program she chose to sing. While I love hearing music new to me, its usually a mistake to present a program with nothing familiar to the audience. While such a program avoids, to a degree, being compared to other singers on the same material, it denies the listener that welcome comfort that comes from the familiar. Give us, please, a familiar place from which to explore the new scenery. This was compounded by the lack of supratitles or sufficient light with which to read the translations. Even without those, I have never failed to be enchanted by the great recitalists listed above; they communicated without my understanding their words!

The second and more serious problem was presentation. As most people know, Voigt has lost 140 pounds and looks fabulous in a form-fitting gown. And her manner was pleasing and comfortably informal. But she was miles away from knowing how to sell the music she sang.

To begin with, she kept a music stand between her and the audience. Not an insurmountable distraction, but a barrier nonetheless. To her credit, she hardly seemed to refer to the music. But no great song recitalist I have seen ever used sheet music in concert. It says right away that the artist gave less preparation to this recital than she did to any of her operatic roles, where she cannot of course use music.

More important, she failed to communicate much of anything in the whole first half of the evening. In short, she was boring. The Mozart (Cantata You Who Honor the Creator of the Infinite Universe, K. 619) sounded just like the Verdi songs, which sounded much like the Strauss songs. Strip away the superb playing of her pianist, Brian Zeger, and you were left with the same sounds and virtually the same phrasing in each of these vastly different composers. This was especially shocking from an artist who especially excels in the operas of Richard Strauss.

The exception came just after intermission. A set of songs by Ottorino Respighi came to life like nothing else all evening. My brother Richard, who had a career as a professional tenor, remarked, Its as though she had a different coach for these songs! I could easily have enjoyed a whole program of Respighi if Voigt gave them the kind of inflection we heard here.

The rest of the program was in English. In the songs of Amy Beach and Leonard Bernstein, Voigt showed she could project the English words quite well. Still, the emotional content seemed a little flat. She wasnt aided by the fact that when Benaroya Hall is not full, it can be over-resonant, making words harder to discern. (A quarter of the people in our section of the Founders Tier had left at intermission.) It may have also been the fault of those empty seats that the middle of Voigts voice sounded less than beautiful. (The top and bottom notes were terrific.)

The one familiar song in the printed program was Bernsteins Somewhere from West Side Story. Even it lacked emotional content, having none of the heartfelt yearning lesser singers have given it. Ms. Voigt showed us that pretty notes are not enough.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu. by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

A friend asked me about a week ago if 'all of the, um, sex in my column was for real', 'did I really have that much&action, and did I ever have a slow week'. Well, being that my mood was a lot better than it is as I sit here writing this (wishing Bill Gates or anyone else would help contribute to my 'moving to Tacoma fund' so I could stop being 'the invisible girl' in Seattle), I answered 'yes, it's all real', and 'no, I never have a slow week'. That was then, before the 'the summer curse' that has plagued me for the last two years descended. Call it an astrological transit--Neptune's been playing fast and loose with a lot of Aquarians and, being one of that tribe, I've certainly felt the sting of weirdness that planet can bring on--or just plain bad luck, this kid is not feelin' the love. Something that really hit home when I was out with a friend the other night, who was visiting from the darling place of Kalamazoo, Michigan (no, honey, it's not really 'darling', I'm being sarcastic, again).

Seems if don't have blonde hair, you do not get noticed in this town (even though I was wearing my bootylicious, red, Frederick's Hollywood 'sex kitten' top and looking scrumptious). Ah well, we still wish you well in Las Vegas, Ceasar, just hope you realize dark skin and dreads are pretty too, someday. But hey, we did love Ms. Montevecchi, the new diva at Teatro Zinzanni, who this one immediately named her silent sheroe. The chanteuse is elegant and splendid in her many personas during the show, and if you like her as much as this one did, do pick up the CD, 'The Divas', which features Ms. Lilliane Montevecchi on three tracks, as well as sterling work by Joan Baez, Thelma Houston and other great voices of our time. I listened to it on the way to my daughter's last weekend and it cheered me up, even though that was a very hard task Cinco De Mayo weekend, let me tell you!

Well, enough from 'the pity pot of no love', let me tell you about some great products I tried recently. And I'll also share with you that yes, another 'computer gremlin'--be it the Canuck, nutjob ex who keeps stalking me, or 'soap opera vixen', or some other, more shadowy, and powerful institution--has done a job on my blog. The blog, thank Goddess, is still up, but this one cannot access it, and has to have my trusty editor, Robert, do it for me. Props to that one for his help, and when this one's ship does come in, be knowing you're at the top of the 'gravy' list. So there, to the curmudgeon/hater who tried to shut La Diva's voice down by blocking my access to the blog of this column. Free speech will always prevail dahling.

Anyway, the best and most wonderful facial product I've used recently (and honey, this one has used quite a few, for sure!) is DHC's new 'Washing Powder'. I know, it sounded like 'Tide' for your face to me too, but it's wonderful stuff and leaves your skin feeling soft and very clean, perfect for the warmer days ahead. Also try their 'Skin Softener,' which is the perfect toner. Order by going to www.DHCcare.com. And do try DDF's 'Nourishing Eye Cream', which you can pick up at Sephora. This is SPF 15, so again, good for sunny days and protecting your skin, as is Neutrogena's 'Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer' with SPF 30, (which this one pinched from the hotel back at Norwescon!). Good stuff and not too greasy, another plus for warmer weather and oily skin. Finally do try 'White Musk' eau de toilette and the 'Satuma' body oil (which smells wonderful with the patchouli oil you can pick up at Madison Market), both of which you can pick up with a variety of new, Spring eye and lip colors at The Body Shop in Pacific Place. Hey, babes, it's Spring, be flirty and smell wonderful out there!

Ah yes, and warmer weather brings up the 'no monkey toes' issue. Remember, I did a column on that some time ago? Well, whether you read that one or not, do keep in mind that now that your 'little piggies' are out for the world to see, via all of those sexy, sassy sandals, a good polish and some care to those little darlings is de reguere, so act accordingly and either treat yourself to a pedicure at one of the local spas (like Salon Dewi, or Swoon--both of which are on Capitol Hill, and have wonderful staff to help you), or do it yourself. Pick up some divine polish at either Sephora, or just hike it on over to Bartels and find a huge variety from the daring to the muted and understated. Hey, I look at feet, sometimes before I look at faces and make my choices 'yes', or 'no', accordingly, and I'm sure some others out there do too.

So, there you are my little gummi fish! And do feel free to e-mail me at ijanaral@yahoo.com and let me know what you think about this column, and check out the blog by the same name and feel free to e-mail me about that too. And here's hoping this one's mood has reason to improve when she can get to her e-mail, and that funds for that move to Tacoma is soon in coming, so this one is in a town where she is adored rather than ignored. Buhbye and be nice to each other out there and keep the troops (including 'army sweetie') in your prayers. Let's hope that the war ends soon and they return safely to those who love them.

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