The additions are debatable but the film stands as a considerable artistic achievement and is testament to the resilience of opera in the pandemic era. At its core it is quite a luxury in and of itself.
When contemplating the content for Confessions, soprano, Laura Strickling's recent recording of contemporary art songs by American composers, all of whom occupy the highest ranks of the genre, she was guided by a keen ear for quality and vocal suitability. She was also guided by a commitment to create, out of these fragile entities, a strong and satisfying musical program.
It is a journey that does evolve over the course of the three songs, and textually speaking it is such an interesting journey I honestly wish there were more songs devoted to it.
In a recent Zoom conversation, Yankovskaya's pride and enthusiasm in the COT administrative and artistic staff was evident from the start. She praised their collective grit, acknowledging that their upcoming digital release, Rimsky Rebooted represents not just a "Plan B" pivot from live performance, but is rather a "5th or maybe 7th reimagining" of what they hoped to originally present to Chicago audiences.
Some listeners may prefer moderation when it comes to the tenor based pyrotechnics that ignite this recording. Soaring high notes and vivid vocal coloring create sure-fire thrills but thrills depend on relative rarity and risk being diminished by such concentrated exposure.
I'm going to write this as a live-blog, as one of the advantages of attending virtually is you can type as you listen, instead of having to remember all your thoughts from the concert!
Nagy and her group appear in the perfect environment for their naturalistic style of video that revels in dramatic fades to black, subtle cross fades and deft use of camerawork and lighting. The passing from day to night, from a sun-filled hall to one of intense lighting and dramatic shadow, is visually alluring.
Wrapping his selection of American art songs with works from poets who are celebrated and time-honored masters may partially explain why Powell has arranged the songs somewhat thematically rather than by composer. Whatever his rationale, "Billy in the Darbies" remains the soul of this undertaking.
On the micro level, the Twin Cities has a thriving opera and theater community filled with small grassroots companies. I hope these companies survive and continue to engage their audiences until live performances are safe.
Throughout his career his dedication to Shakespeare was unwavering. It was said that he could recite extended passages from Shakespeare's work with eloquence often surpassing that of cultivated speakers in his England, his adopted homeland.