Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Randal Turner

Swedenborgian ChurchLast evening I attended the West Coast recital debut of baritone Randal Turner at the retreat-like Swedenborgian Church. We were in a small candlelit room that sat perhaps 70 & was near capacity. The event was being recorded for CD & DVD, so there were glaring lights at the front of the room. The program featured all songs by living American composers, & it was nice not to have to fuss with a dozen pages of translations, as I did at a recent song recital.

In the opening song, The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Glen Roven, we get to her the singer before the piano, & Mr. Turner proved to be pretty much on key. He sings with great variety & dynamic contrast, often moving between falsetto, dark chest tones & big, tensile high notes within a single song. He is an emotive actor as well. He made an entire play out of Julia Schwartz's Don Juan at Forty. At one point he wandered into the audience, looking for seducible women, until he was called back by a discreet cough from his pianist. In another theatrical moment, he tore off his tie & jacket in frustration. At the scene's despairing end, all the lights were cut, leaving the room in darkness. Mr. Turner was well-supported by pianist Allen Perriello, whose playing is crisp & alert. One feels that he is a reliable accompanist. The composer was present, & she took a bow with Mr. Turner & Mr. Perriello.

Mr. Turner's sound is somewhat between an operatic voice & a Broadway voice, & it suited the musical-like numbers by Ricky Ian Gordon. I liked the pretty "Lullaby", which Mr. Turner sang with a feeling of unrequited yearning. I also enjoyed the sardonic "The Thin Edge / Coda", in which the piano plays both a tango & a theme from Tristan & Isolde under the line "Love is a permanent flop." Mr. Turner made a lot of sound in the Grapes of Wrath aria "I'll Be There," which sounds like a Broadway anthem.

Before singing the closing songs by Clint Borzoni, Mr. Turner got personal & explained how he discovered the songs a few month ago, when there was national news about gay teens committing suicide. He disclosed that he was bullied on a daily basis as a high school student in Indiana & that it took a long time to get over that experience. Borzoni's lyrical "I Dream'd in a Dream" sounds like an art song version of "Over the Rainbow," though it ends unresolved. Mr. Borzoni was present & looks like a teenager himself.

The entire performance was an intermissionless 70 minutes. The audience stood for Mr. Turner at the end, & most of them stayed to line up & greet him afterward. The encore was a fond "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," arranged by Mr. Perriello.

§ Music by Living American Composers
Randal Turner, Baritone
Allen Perriello, Piano

Glen Roven: "Four Melancholy Songs," Op. 16, No. 1, by William Butler Yeats
1. The Lake Isle of Innisfree
2. A Drinking Song
3. When You Are Old
4. A Crazed Girl

Julia Schwartz: "Don Juan at Forty" from "Histories of Desire" by Ron Butlin

Ricky Ian Gordon: Four Poems by Dorothy Parker
1. Interior
2. Lullaby
3. The Thin Edge / Coda

Ricky Ian Gordon: The Grapes of Wrath
Tom Joad's Act III aria -- "I'll Be There"

Jake Heggie: Two Songs
1. In Praise of Songs that Die (Vachel Lindsay)
2. In the Morning (A.E. Housman)

Jake Heggie: Moby Dick
Act I Scene 7, "Captain Ahab? I must speak with you"

Clint Borzoni: Two Poems by Walt Whitman
1. I Dream'd in a Dream (From "Leaves of Grass")
2. That Shadow, My Likeness

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco"

December 6, 2010, 6pm
Swedenborgian Church


Civic Center said...

I'm so glad you went to this so I didn't have to. I think it's "Jake" Heggie rather than "Jack," by the way.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, that's what I do...

I fixed the typo, thanks!