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An Outsized Recital Debut

New York
Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall
02/27/2009 -  
George F. Handel: Semele, HWV 58 (Selections): Endless Pleasure, Endless Love – Myself I Shall Adore
Edvard Grieg: Haughussa, Op. 67 (Selections) :
It Sings – Blueberry Hill – Love – Evil Day – By Gjaetle Brook
Hugo Wolf: From Italienisches Liederbuch: Gesegnet sei, durch den die Welt enstund – Wie lange schon war immer mein Verlangen – Ich hab’ in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen – From Mörike Lieder: Verborgenheit – From Spanisches Liederbuch: In dem Schatten meiner Locken
Francis Poulenc: From Fiançailles pour rire, FP 101: Il Vole – Violon – Fleurs
Samuel Barber: From Despite and Still, Op. 41: Solitary Hotel – From Three Songs, Op. 10: Sleep NowNuvoletta, Op.25
Georges Bizet: Chanson d’avril – La Coccinelle Tarentelle

Danielle de Niese (Soprano), Ken Noda (Piano)

Danielle de Niese (© Lorenzo Aguis)

Danielle de Niese is an opera star. At the ripe young age of twenty-nine, she is already a veteran of almost a decade at the Metropolitan Opera, where she was the youngest person ever to be accepted into the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. The following year, she made her house debut as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro. In 2005, she made a sensational sexy splash as Cleopatra in David McVicar’s Glyndebourne production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare. I heard her earlier this season as Eurydice, in the Met’s revival of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. She gave a marvelous performance, although she was outshone by the brilliance of Stephanie Blythe in the title role.

In her New York recital debut, Ms. de Niese chose a diverse program. She brought her brightly colored voice with its impressive coloratura to her portrayal of Handel’s Semele , as an impossibly vain woman in love with the image in her mirror. Ms. de Niese was coy and coquettish in the extreme, and her manner was charming, although the self-infatuation was overdone. As the evening went on, this portrayal proved to be highly ironic (perhaps, at times, unintentionally so).

Ms. de Niese has been on stage for about half of her young life, having starred in a television show as a teenager. She is used to being the center of attention and seems to thrive on it. As an opera singer, she has developed an acting style of large exaggerated gestures and facial grimaces visible from the family circle. This style of performing really does not suit the concert stage, in particular the small and intimate venue of the Weill Recital Hall.

For me, the highlight of the evening were the songs by Edvard Grieg, in which Ms. de Niese was Haugtussa (the hill sprite), a young girl who communes with nature and falls in love with Jon, the wild boy, who will eventually betray her. In Elsk (Love), Ms. de Niese made full use of her considerable acting skills and painted a musical portrait of a besotted young girl, at first breathless and impatient (rather like Cherubino in his first aria) and finally rather wistful. Her voice had a lovely luminous quality. In Vond Dag (Evil Day), she sensitively evoked the despair of a young girl betrayed by her first love.

In the Wolf songs, all of Ms. de Niese’s gifts were on display – lyricism, unforced power, excellent control throughout her range, and exceptional acting skills. In the charming Bizet songs, she also showed off her superb coloratura technique.

The encores were Bolcolm’s cabaret song, Amor and Cole Porter’s I Hate Men Both songs lend themselves to the over-the-top exaggerated performing style that I trust, with time and experience, Ms. de Niese will leave behind her. She is far too gifted to surrender to caricature. Pianist, Ken Noda, who is the musical assistant to James Levine, was superb throughout.

Arlene Judith Klotzko



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