Saturday, January 17, 2009

Review: Bridgid Eversole DMA Vocal Recital at CUA

The thirty or so audience members clumped toward the back of the hall, as usual – a modest crowd, but not bad for a Wednesday evening. They were treated to an excellent and bold program of twentieth-century mostly-Spanish-language vocal music by Bridgid Eversole, DMA candidate in Vocal Performance at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Opening the evening was the first of three Villa-Lobos sets – the one-cello version of the fantastic Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, Aria. Here, cellist Dee Curtis and Ms. Eversole were very well attuned to each other's performances, alternately matching then contrasting their individual lines with the care and musical intelligence so prized in chamber settings. Ms. Eversole took advantage of outer sections' lyrical writing to exhibit her exquisite control and tone, particularly throughout phrases in higher registers. This vocal control, on display throughout the evening, is truly a hallmark of her instrument.

The second Villa-Lobos work, his Suite for Voice and Violin, disguises some quite challenging vocal material using the sounds of folk music. Short, repetitive phrases, strummed pizzicato on the violin, and ample glissandi gave the work a charming and approachable sound, as the performers deftly navigated tricky passages without apparent concern. Violinist Kevin Jang was particularly emotive during the strummed pizzicato sections and managed to make the full pizzicato chords speak with surprising clarity.

In addition to her solid intonation, Ms. Eversole kept her sound spinning out and up and shaped the long, melissmatic vowel sounds – a soprano's favorite – with real grace. The third movement, Sertaneja, featured a nearly-nonsense lyric that took on a Dadaist performance art quality, which was sold effectively by the confidence of the performers.

This confidence and careful attention to vocal production and tone also carried through Villa-Lobos' late work Forest of the Amazon. Ms. Eversole again had no difficulty navigating her higher register with good support, and she remained impressively engaged during the extended piano section in the second song. There were a few moments – particularly near the end of the first song – in which sustained soft consonants (“m”, “n”, etc.) didn't maintain the same resonance or vitality as the rest of the line. Also, the vocal phrasing, so strong in the first two works, was regrettably rigid in the dance-like sections – the first of the evening's rare shortcomings.

The second half of the recital opened with Joaquin Rodrigo's Cantos de Amor y de Guerra, a 1969 work decidedly more typical of mid-twentieth-century dissonance. Florid vocal lines combined with deliciously “clustery” piano harmonies to charming effect. The virtuosic trills were handled with particular expertise. Ms. Eversole found new energy for this set, really engaging her face and body, which came through in a more animated tone. While a few hard consonants were perhaps unavoidably lost in the upper register of IV. Sobre Baza estaba el Rey, her diction was strong as a whole. Accompanist Nicholas Catravas did a superb job, particularly during this set, wringing colorful phrases out of the tightly-packed chord clusters.

The cute and playful flair of Joseph Canteloube's Chants D'Auvergne, Series 3, carried the concert to an uplifting close. Ms. Eversole seemed to genuinely enjoy singing this work. The insistent vitality, nonsense syllables, and quirky song endings kept her smirking and the audience engaged throughout. The sustained lines of Brezairola, a sweet and repetitive lullaby, posed the greatest challenge in terms of breath support; the sudden change from brisk, light motives to this more sustained production did prove tricky at times. The clever closing number ended the night with a dash of fun and panache, and a good serving of vocal dexterity and diction at that. If you missed her this Wednesday and still haven't yet had the pleasure of hearing Bridgid Eversole sing, it would be well worth your while to do so, and soon!

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