Sunday, March 16, 2008

Eugene Brancoveanu

Eugene Brancoveanu, baritone
John Parr, piano

GERALD FINZI: Let us Garlands Bring
SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe
RAVEL: Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
Nebbia (encore)

Early Wednesday evening I had a rare opportunity to hear art songs in the type of small setting for which they were originally written. There were about 70 of us squeezed into a salon next to the bar in the Hotel Rex. In this little room Brancoveanu was accompanied by the self-effacing John Parr on a baby grand. For me it was a privilege to hear this singer in such an intimate venue. Since one passes through the bar to get to the salon, many members of the audience sat down with glasses of wine. A lady in front of me had a margarita.

Brancoveanu is young, charming & immediately likable. In the first set of songs by Finzi he demonstrated clear diction in English & made the contrasting moods of each song distinct. He is also a great actor. He made it easy for me to follow the emotional path of Schumann's Dichterliebe. He went quickly from innocent joy into bitterness & sarcasm, then to an angry & then a calm despair. Even though he did the rest of the program from memory, he grabbed a score for Aus alten Märchen. He had a lot of fun with the Ravel Don Quichotte songs, hamming it up tastefully as a wide-eyed happy drunk in the final number.

I like the full sound of his low notes. He sings with a lot of control. Even when he was making a lot of sound, it seemed like he could do even more. He ended his encore with a couple of thrillingly big high As. In that small room, it was something you felt physically as well as heard.

This was mini-recital with about an hour of music. Afterwards, Brancoveanu did a brief Q & A session. We learned that his voice changed when he only 9. He claimed to be able to do a high B-flat in the cadenza of Figaro's aria in Barber. He can sing both Mozart's Figaro & Rossini's Figaro, which is apparently unusual. He talked about doing Baz Luhrmann's Broadway-style La Boheme. He had to develop a new stage technique for Luhrmann, which he thinks has served him well, as opera is becoming more cinematic & more realistic in its acting style.

Even though the recital had started at 6:3pm, it was the high point of my evening. Not so for the people seated behind me. As soon as Brancoveanu finished his encore, the woman behind me stood & announced to her party, "& now we go to dinner!"

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