Thursday, February 05, 2009

Heidi Melton at Hotel Rex

Salon at the Rex
Heidi Melton, soprano
John Parr, piano

Wednesday, February 4, 6:30pm
Hotel Rex

PURCELL (arr. BRITTEN): The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation
BERG: Sieben frühe Lieder
MESSIAEN: Selections from Harawi
DEBUSSY: Trois Chansons de Bilitis
BOLCOM: Toothbrush Time; Waitin'; George

Weill: My Ship

Having heard Ms. Melton's huge voice at the Adler Fellows Gala, I was a bit scared to hear her in the small salon at Hotel Rex. A lot of people must have had similar fears, as the back of the room filled up before the front rows. The concert was sold out, so the hostess asked us to make room to fit as many as possible inside. She then added that people left outside the room would probably hear Heidi just fine!

Ms. Melton began by saying that, given the venue, she prepared a program that was not just "Mack Truck" singing. She described the Purcell as a mad scene, & indeed it was a strange & somewhat depressing monologue with many different moods, each of which Ms. Melton clearly communicated. After this she stepped aside, popped open the lid of a diet Coke & took a few sips. She joked at the unprofessionalism of this maneuver & called diet Coke a singer's best friend.

The intense Berg songs that followed were for me the core of the program. I felt enveloped by the music. Ms. Melton voice is not just loud. There is something about the sound that is palpable & physical. I feel it through my chest as well as through my ears. When she sings those big, ringing high notes, it never sounds strained. Instead it sounds like she could expand even more.

The 2 Messiaen selections turned out to be a teaser's for Ms. Melton's up-coming recital at Old First Church on March 8th, when she & Mr. Parr will do the complete cycle. Based on what we heard, this should be beautiful & otherworldly experience.

Ms. Melton acted as well as sang her way through the 3 Debussy love songs, creating contrasting moods of youthful love, joyous expectation & quiet acquiescence. In the last set Ms. Melton indulged her self-confessed obsession with cabaret. The surprise here is that cabaret suits her just as well as Strauss & Wagner. The last song, George, was about an opera-loving drag queen who is stabbed to death by a trick while singing "Un bel di". Ms. Melton got the laughs in the right places even for this affectionate & grotesque song. One was left with the impression that Ms. Melton might easily give up opera & become a cabaret singer instead.

Afterward, she did a Q & A with the audience. Mostly people wanted to know where she was going to be singing next & when we would be hearing her Isolde & her Brünnhilde! She admitted that when she did Isolde in the Adlers Fellows Concert, she had never had a more comfortable role. She felt like she could do it all night. But of course these roles are many years off. The professional danger with the big Wagner roles is that once you start doing them, no one wants to hire you for anything else.

It was a rare treat to hear Ms. Melton this evening, in non-operatic repertoire, in this intimate setting, in the presence of others who also feel that this is a special voice. Her mother was in the audience too. I got to exchange a few words of congratulations with her, & she seemed as awestruck as the rest of us.


The Opera Tattler said...

Sounds like it was a fantastic performance. It has been interesting to hear Heidi develop as a singer.

Axel Feldheim said...

There was definitely the feeling that we were hearing someone who has a bright future. Heidi has a great personality as well, so she was also unexpectedly fun. She told us that she would be covering Deborah Voigt's Chrysothemis at the Met next season, then added with a shrug, "Bad sushi. What else can I say?"

Gavin Plumley said...

What a fantastic programme, anyone who can mix the minds and music of Berg, Debussy, Messiaen and Weill gets my vote. Thanks for your review.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks for reading. I got really excited when I opened my program & saw the Berg listed.