Thursday, December 02, 2010

Heidi Melton's Salon at the Rex

I must have been over-eager to arrive at soprano Heidi Melton's Salon at the Rex, because when I opened the door of the Rex Hotel, I was face to face with Ms. Melton herself, concert dress in hand, on her way to change. After Ms. Melton's previous salon, Christine Lim of SF Performances had asked her for an entire program of cabaret songs, & Ms. Melton eventually settled on this program of half art songs & half torch songs. My unfamiliarity with the Sibelius songs in Swedish & Finnish hardly mattered, as Ms. Melton not only makes a gorgeously full sound but also communicates the emotions with engrossing clarity. In the middle of the sad "Tuol Laulaa Neitonen," she barely opened her mouth & yet produced a haunting pianissimo. The ending of the insinuating "Flicakn kom ifrån sin älsklings mote" was positively scary. Her low notes for "Hjertats morgon" created a forlorn landscape . I was no less engaged by her singing of the dark & pained Korngold songs. She modulated her large sound nicely for the small room, in which her voice was experienced as a physical force. I felt embraced by its full, rich & milky sound.

After a brief 5 minute break, Ms. Melton came back for the carabet songs, having changed into a sparkly, sequined dress, to shouts of approval from the audience. She sounded so distraught after Weill's "Je ne t'aime pas" that I wanted to get up & give her a hug. Her "Fine and Mellow", sung in the lower part of her voice, was unexpectedly sultry & made me feel like I was at the end of a long night in a bar. Accompanist John Churchwell seemed equally at home with both sides of the repertoire as well. He has an unusual technique of playing with very flat hands & elbows nearly below his wrists. He gets very involved in his playing, sometimes inhaling audibly.

I like how at ease Ms. Melton is with her audience. Taking a break between songs, she told us, "I'm going to be real classy & have a diet coke." She did not try to hide the fact that she had to read the translation of a Weill song off a cheat sheet. Since many in the audience were due at the Adler Fellows Gala at 7:30pm, she paused in the 2nd half to ask how much time she had left, at which someone replied "We've got all night!" As she conferred with Mr. Churchwell about the remaining numbers, someone else called out "Starke Scheite," to which Ms. Melton gave a definitive "No!"

§ Heidi Melton, soprano
John Churchwell, piano

SIBELIUS: Var det en dröm; Tuol Laulaa Neitonen; Flicakn kom ifrån sin älsklings mote; Hiljainen Kaupunki; Hjertats morgon
KORNGOLD: Lieder des Abschieds, Op. 14
WEILL: Je ne t'aime pas
MERCER: Autumn Leaves
BERLIN: Always
HOLIDAY: Fine and Mellow
BERLIN: Suppertime; What'll I Do
WEILL: The Saga of Jenny

Salons at the Hotel Rex
Wednesday, December 1
Hotel Rex

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