Saturday, October 29, 2011

Simon Keenlyside

Thursday night baritone Simon Keenlyside walked on stage at Herbst Theatre with pianist Malcolm Martineau, looked around as if he'd never been there before, & just started singing. Mr. Keenlyside is a complete actor as well as singer, & every song came across with a satisfying directness & spontaneity. His voice is warm & comfy, & he produced a stunning variety of colors. He kept moving restlessly & seemed not to know what to do with his hands. He sometimes reminded me of a little boy. He was so captivating that I couldn't take my eyes off him, even to read the translations of the songs, but I felt I understood everything anyway.

Mahler's "Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt" was wry & even sly. In "Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht," Mr. Keenlyside surprised us by not pausing for breath during an especially long phrase. Before performing songs from Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad, he reminded us of their wartime context & urged us not think of them as "English frippery." He seemed to be talking, not singing, during "The lads in their hundred," & he ghoulishly channeled a disembodied voice for the heart-rending "Is my team ploughing?" Strauss's "Befreit" shook me with its powerful ardour, & Debussy's "Mandoline" ended the program by wafting softly away.

Mr. Martineau was a terrific accompanist, his playing pristine & musical. His quiet notes were like little drops of water. The audience cheered the performance & was rewarded with 4 lovely encores. Mr. Keenlyside was undeniably cute in Schubert's "Der Einsame", & he & Mr. Martineau got softer & softer during Schubert's "An mein Klavier", completely drawing me in. When the performance was over, I turned to my concert companion & asked sorrowfully, "Is that all?" For a moment, I actually wanted to follow Mr. Keenlyside out. Instead, "An mein Klavier" lingered in my head the whole way home.

§ Simon Keenlyside, baritone
Malcolm Martineau, piano

      Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!
      Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt
      Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald
      Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
      Liebst du um Schönheit
      Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht

BUTTERWORTH: A Shropshire Lad (1st set only)
      Loveliest of trees
      When I was one-and-twenty
      Look not into my eyes
      Think no more, lad
      The lads in their hundreds
      Is my team ploughing?

      Das Rosenband

      Le Manoir de Rosemonde

      Nuit d’étoiles
      Voici que le printemps
      Les Angélus

Schubert: Der Einsame
John Ireland: Sea Fever
Percy Grainger: Once I Had a Sprig of Thyme
Schubert: An mein Klavier

San Francisco Performances
Thursday, October 27, 2011, 8pm
Herbst Theatre


y2k said...

Lucky you! What a treat to hear him in a recital, in an (I presume) intimate setting?

Axel Feldheim said...

I heard him Herbst Theatre, which is a smaller venue, maybe seats 900 at most. Yes, I've only heard him once before, so I feel very fortunate. He's a special kind of performer. I don't know why he's not more super-famous!

y2k said...

IMHO, it is much harder for non-tenor singers to get famous; and their roles tend to be villans!

I think Keenlyside probably has a bigger fan base in the UK; he doesn't sing too often in the US. I also feel that his voice is more suited to the smaller European venues than the ginormous US opera houses. [I attended Don Carlo at the Met last season, and Keenlyside was inaudible at times.]

Fun fact: Keenlyside's wife is a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. Her brother, Yury, is a principal with Boston Ballet.

Axel Feldheim said...

Yes, I think you're right about the tenor/bass thing. One frequently hears baritones & basses complain that they never get the girl!

Unfortunately Mr. Keenlyside does not perform in the US much. I'm guessing he does not like to be away from his family for long. I only heard him once before, at SF Opera a long time ago, as Pelleas, & my reaction was: Why haven't I heard of this guy before? He does not have a huge voice, but it carried beautifully in that performance. I was totally amazed by his acting as well.

Keenlyside, with his young ballerina wife, has quite the life!