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In performance: Alice Coote

By Joan Reinthaler
It was announced before her Vocal Arts Society recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater recital on Thursday that Alice Coote had a cold but that the show would go on. The audience was asked to excuse any vocal problems that might occur, but no excuses were necessary. The voice that the English mezzo-soprano lavished on a program of mostly turn-of-the-20th-century English songs was wonderfully expressive, and her occasional hoarseness seemed to happen at dramatically appropriate times.

There were a lot of bucolic songs on this program. The moon was featured prominently and frequently in the texts as were forests, boats and early-morning outings. Their settings, as one might expect, were simple and sometimes folk-like, and Coote never overwhelmed them. She used her considerable resources with consummate musicality, building scenes with the subtlety of a painter rather than the vividness of an opera singer. Her softest lines spoke powerfully, and she was able to ratchet up intensity without ever becoming aggressive.

Most of that period's big guns were represented -- Elgar, Quilter, Stanford, Warlock and Vaughan Williams. But there were also pieces by relative unknowns -- Maude Valerie White, Graham Peel and two whose songs were particularly appealing, Liza Lehmann and Ivor Gurney. Gurney's "Lights Out" ended the evening with a quiet unresolved cadence, and in "From the Diary of Virginia Woolf" by Dominick Argento (the only non-Edwardian on the program), Coote sang with exquisite dramatic timing.

Bradley Moore accompanied with assurance and attention to balance and detail.

-- Joan Reinthaler

By Joan Reinthaler  | November 7, 2010; 11:44 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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Comments

For me, Alice Coote's recital was one of those rare, totally transporting experiences that I will remember for a long time. In fact, I plan to hear the program again when she performs it in Philadelphia on November 19th.

I agree with Joan Reinthaler's review, of course, but my own would be even more enthusiastic, echoing much of the long, detailed--and printed!--review that appeared after her performance of the same program last April in San Francisco. (You can find the review easily by googling Alice Coote, San Francisco, review, if clicking on the following link doesn't work:

http://www.sfcv.org/reviews/san-francisco-performances/alice-coote-song-at-its-finest

I can hardly wait to hear her CD of Mahler and Schumann lieder, and the reviews of her performances in operas by Handel, Richard Strauss, Bizet, Monteverdi, and others have whetted my appetite to see her in that medium. You can get a good idea of her performance with orchestra in an astonishingly beautiful Brahms' Alto Rhapsody (check it out on YouTube.)

Thanks Vocal Arts DC for bringing so many wonderful singers to Washington; I've been attending these concerts for many years, and Coote, for me, was one of the very finest.

Posted by: rogerg2 | November 8, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

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