In performance: Susanna Phillips
Soprano Phillips: languid legato
by Charles T. Downey
Soprano Susanna Phillips, in the area to perform with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this weekend, gave an exceptionally beautiful recital on Tuesday night in the auditorium of Alexandria's Bishop Ireton High School. Those in attendance received a preview of the delectable program of songs Phillips will present later this month at the Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Even better, the proceeds went to support the creation of a summer music camp for the students of Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School.
(read more after the jump)
Phillips has a charming stage presence in operatic roles, but her greatest strength may be as a singer of lieder. As in her Vocal Arts Society recital in 2007, Phillips sang with a tone of consummate beauty, strength and consistency, a voice suited more to the spinning out of flowing legato line than to pyrotechnical acrobatics. In songs like "Adieu," part of a languid Fauré set, she savored the unctuous flow of the melody wrapped around the poetry, even when high notes coincided with unstressed syllables. The song's long final high note hovered in the air without any sign of flagging breath support, until it gradually vanished.
An ecstatic "Action de Grâces" and shuddering "Épouvante" from Messiaen's "Poèmes pour Mi" showed Phillips's dramatic but not over-emoting manner as a recitalist in the best light. Philip Lasser's lovely new set of songs, " . . . In Colors of Feelings," featured the poetry of Wynelle Ann Carson, the second cousin of Craig Terry, the soprano's able-handed partner at the piano. Terry not only played with impeccable facility but also supported Phillips in sustaining the mood of each song, waiting motionless with her as the final notes decayed.
-- Charles T. Downey
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