Brian Zeger, pianist
Vilar Performing Arts Center, March 25, 2013 - 6:30 p.m.
Arditi "Il bacio"
Rimsky-Korsakov "Ne veter, veya s visoti" (op. 43, no. 2)
Rimsky-Korsakov "Plenivsis rozoy, solovey" (op. 2, no. 2)
Tchaikovsky "Skazi, o cyom v teni vetney" (op. 57, no. 1)
Dvorak "Lullaby" Rakhmaninov "Ne poy krasavitza"
Puccini "In quelle trine morbide: (Manon Lescaut)
Giordano "La mama morta" (Andrea Chenier)
Bioto "L'altra notte" (Mefistofele)
Puccini "Sola, perduta abbandonata" (Manon Lescaut)
Cilea "Ecco! Io son l'umile ancella" (Adriana Lecouvreur)
Puccini "O mio babbino caro" (Gianni Schicchi)
Anna opened the concert wearing a floor-length purple skirt, form-fitting at the hips and flaring below, with a purple and turquoise top above a short gold dirndl. Very festive! When she walked on stage she was greeted with a standing ovation from an audience two-thirds of which, as revealed by a show hands requested by the master of ceremonies, had travelled to this remote ski resort village specifically to hear Anna sing.
Part 1 of the program was devoted to art songs, before each of which Anna spoke briefly, setting the scene. For these she moved freely about the stage, subtly enacting the mini drama of each song, but also turning our attention to her accompaniest, her back to the audience or her hand attentively on his shoulder, during extended piano passages.
Having heard Anna live in more than two dozen opera performances since 1999, watched all of her Met HD performances, and spent untold hours with her CDs and DVDs, the voice was all that we had come to expect: gorgeously full with a cornucopia of colors, radiant highs, resonant lows and meltingly beautiful legato technique; evenly produced from top to bottom with no register breaks; and with the ample dynamic range and messa di voce technique needed to support the wide spectrum of drama and mood that these songs demand. And, unlike in operas or in her televised concerts with other singers, this was all Anna all evening! Before beginning to sing she commented wryly that she had been told that if she sang badly she could blame it on the altitude (8100 feet). But, of course, she sang magnificantly. The only audible effect of diminished oxygen was the occasional extra breath (e.g., in the long legato line, "napominayut mne one" in the final verse of "Ne poy krasavitza"), probably noticeable only to those familiar with her recordings of these songs.
After the intermission Anna appeared in an elegant royal blue floor-length dress. She explained that the second half of the program would consist of opera arias and that for these she would be moving less around the stage. Even so, with a thespian's grace and economy of gesture she embodied each successive character and gave visual resonance to the varied, often intense drama of the music. The arias all came from operas that Anna has yet to perform on stage (nor, to our knowledge, has she previously sung them in concert) and as such were an enticing harbinger both of new pleasures awaiting us in the future and of the big dramatic roles that Anna has said she was chomping at the bit to sing as a voice student in Leningrad (as it was then). In the final aria, Adriana, a famous (historical) actrice, is telling admirers that her abilities are merely the gift of the Muses, she herself simply the servant of the playwright. Anna introduced the aria as one especially close to her heart; for us its message reflected the public personna that Anna herself so consistently projects.