Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Magdalena Kožená in Recital

San Francisco Performances
Magdalena Kožená, mezzo-soprano
Karel Kosarek, piano

Tuesday, April 21, 8pm
Herbst Theatre

Henry Purcell (arranged by Benjamin Britten)
A Selection of Love Songs

Robert Schumann
Frauenliebe und -leben, Opus 42

Henri Duparc
L’invitation au voyage
Le Manoir de Rosemonde
Chanson triste

Alban Berg
Sieben frühe Lieder

The concert began with an announcement that Ms. Kožená was battling a cold since her arrival in San Francisco on Thursday. However, she did not wish to cancel, so the show would go on. Ms. Kožená has a slender & elegant figure & a beautiful, meaty voice. She gave a very operatic performance. The only thing I heard that indicated she was in trouble were a couple of throaty low notes early on in the Purcell. The Purcell songs sounded more modern than 17th century to me, perhaps because of the Britten arrangement.

The Schumann has an elaborate piano part that seems more important than the vocal line. Indeed, the cycle ends with an extended passage for the solo piano. Ms. Kožená sang with great characterization, & Mr. Kosarek's playing was romantic & awash in color. He may have been a tad indulgent as well. Ms. Kožená launched into Ich kann's nicht fassen while he was still shuffling his music. When he failed to come in, Ms. Kožená was so surprised that she looked over to her accompanist & stopped. She began the song again & this time the pianist followed.

After the intermission, we got another announcement that Ms. Kožená was having problems with low notes & so she would end the recital with the Duparc. She continued to sound lovely, though, & made much of a striking moment of dissonance with the piano. But the evening must have been a disheartening one for Ms. Kožená, especially as the Herbst Theater audience was extremely sparse. I'm so sorry we did not get to hear the Sieben frühe Lieder. Such a pity.

More Reports
I seem to have had a similar experience as Joshua Kosman & The Opera Tattler.


Gavin Plumley said...

What a shame to miss out on the Berg. Heavenly works that they are...

Axel Feldheim said...

Indeed. I listened to Berg's operas & the Altenberg Lieder for years before I came across the Sieben Frühe Lieder, & they were a revelation to me. So ultra-romantic & compressed.