Thursday, April 28, 2011

Emma McNairy

I ended last weekend at soprano Emma McNairy's senior recital. A friend has become a fan of her performances at the SF Conservatory & urged me to go with him. She began with a set of Schubert songs which she sang at a measured pace & with a vibrant sound. She has a flirtatious stage presence & a clear desire to communicate. Her Nacht und Träume was especially controlled & still. Her voice is very high. In the Mozart concert aria Popoli di Tessaglia she calmly squeezed out pitches that went higher than the Queen of Night's arias. She also acted up a storm. I think she raised her right eyebrow at us at one point.

I enjoyed the varied & colorful Milhaud songs which gave her more chances to demonstrate her thought-out & unstrained coloratura. She gave dramatic emphasis to the Jake Heggie songs. I was surprised we could all stay silent after her big, open-armed ending for Not in a silver casket. I can imagine her being equally successful in opera or musical theater. Ms. McNairy dedicated her encore, the music hall song After the Ball, to her grandparents, who were in the audience. She sang it in a straightforward way, as if she were speaking to us. Around 30 or 40 people attended, most apparently family & friends. A dessert reception followed.

§ Emma McNairy, Soprano
Senior Recital
with Steven Bailey, piano

Franz Schubert:
Lachen und Weinen
Nacht und Träume

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Popoli di Tessaglia... Io non chiedo, K.316/300b

Darius Milhaud: Chansons de Ronsard
À une fontaine
À Cupidon
Tais-toi, babillarde Arondelle
Dieu vous gard'

Jake Heggie: Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia
Song to Ophelia
Women Have Loved Before
Not in a Silver Casket

Ricky Ian Gordon: Song from Orpheus and Euridice

Charles K. Harris: After the Ball

Sunday, April 24, 2011 8p
Sol Joseph Recital Hall
San Francisco Conservatory of Music


David Lasson said...

I find Emma McNairy's "clear desire to communicate" to be her strongest asset—though her obvious dramatic flair, always directed towards this end, comes in a close second.

She first came to my attention as Morgana in the recent SFCM performance of Handel's Alcina. Although the performance was not staged, Ms. McNairy again “acted up a storm”—but that only tells half the story: one was left with the distinct impression that she inspired her young colleagues to respond in kind, thus enhancing the experience for those on both sides of the footlights.

At the recital under review, the concert aria was the highlight of the first half, the performance eloquently making the case that Mozart made no distinction in style between the Alceste portrayed in this scene and any of the fully fleshed-out characters from his famous operas. The highlight of the second half, the encore, brought to the fore Ms. McNairy's minstrel quality, with her elegant phrasing liltingly and buoyantly communicating every syllable of this well-chosen and exquisitely rendered chestnut.

Last evening, as part of SFCM’s Opera Workshop Combined Program recital—which seemed modeled on those marathon MET galas—Ms. McNairy’s contributions included making Massenet’s music interesting to this listener (a tall order indeed) with her scene as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, and spellbinding the audience by impersonating the Golden Deer in the North American premiere of a scene from the Thai-American composer Somtow Sucharitkul’s Ayodhya. The opera, which seeks to distill the Sanskrit epic Ramayana into a single evening, and whose Golden Deer scene Ms. McNairy thrillingly performed, reminds us that the linking of desire with death has a long history in the Indo-European literary tradition: before Blanche DuBois seeks her famous streetcar, before Tristan and Isolde’s descent into passion and death, there is the Ramayana’s—or now, for many of us, Emma McNairy’s—Golden Deer.

Axel Feldheim said...

I agree that Ms. McNairy sounded buoyant in her encore. Glad to read that you are continuing to enjoy more of her performances.

theflyingsoprano said...

Thank you so much for the generous review of my recital! I had no idea I had such fans! :) I'm so glad you could attend. It was such a special night for me.

Axel Feldheim said...

Emma, thanks for reading! Perhaps I'll be hearing you again when you are back in the Bay Area later this year.