When I am laid from Dido and Aeneas
Piangerò la sorte Mia from Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Au pays où se fait la guerre
Sing not to me, beautiful maiden, Op.4/4
How fair this spot, Op.21/7
I wait for thee, Op.14/1
Tre sonetti di Petrarca
Heimliche Aufforderung, Op.27/3
In solitaria stanza
O del mio amato ben
If I Had Known [world premiere]
La Mamma Morta from Andrea Chénier
Sondra Radvanovsky (soprano) & Anthony Manoli (piano)
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 16 November, 2022
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City
Abandoning the conventional recital format and often speaking directly to the audience, Sondra Radvanovsky shared a poignant and deeply personal journey in this recital entitled ‘From Loss to Love’. She began by explaining how this has been a difficult year for her, and that along with triumphs like opening the Metropolitan Opera’s 2022-23 season in the company’s first ever production of Medea, she has had to deal with the death of her mother and a divorce from her husband and business manager, and that for her, music has been a way of processing these experiences. After wiping away a few tears, she launched into her musical program: a generous assortment of songs and arias.
She began on a mournful note with ‘When I am laid in earth’, followed by the equally tragic, ‘Piangerò la sorte mia’. Except for her desperate cries of ‘Remember me’ near the end, Dido’s Lament was a study in serenity with Anthony Manoli delivering an appropriately understated accompaniment. In the Handel, which she reported to be the aria she sang in the first competition she won, she displayed great operatic flair in the dramatic central section and dispatched the final coloratura runs with astonishing ease.
As a tribute to her two-decade-long residence in Canada, the soprano offered three songs by Duparc. Among them the exquisitely soft-textured ‘Extase’ was most affecting. In these and Liszt’s ruminative and rhapsodic Tre Sonetti di Petrarca, she sang with full operatic richness while Manoli gracefully rendered the lushly textured, long spun melodies.
In between the offerings by Duparc and Liszt came songs by Rachmaninoff, which Radvanovsky dedicated to the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky, her frequent partner in operas, recitals and recordings, and who, as she told the audience, taught her the Russian for them. She brought thrillingintensity and vocal radiance to all three, but she was her most emotionally transporting and vocally resplendent in the sweetly lyrical ‘Zdes’ khorosho’ (How fair this spot), a love song about the bond between man, nature and God.
Following intermission came Lieder by Richard Strauss. Radvanovsky’s big dramatic soprano was exciting to hear in this repertoire which is usually taken on by singers with a more chamber like approach. Two of the songs especially – ‘Befreit’ and ‘Heimliche Aufforderung’ – were sung with fuller-voiced sound and more operatic passion than one usually hears.
Three simple and gently expressive Italian songs revealed the singer at her most charming and vocally appealing, especially her tenderly rendered account of Stefano Donaudy’s ‘O del mio amato ben’. But the emotional highlight Jake Heggie’s ‘If I Had Known,’ which features a highly personal text by Radvanovsky and is the first entry in a planned seven-part song-cycle charting the stages of dementia, the disease which took the singer’s mother’s life.
The printed program ended with ‘La mamma morta’ from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, which she projected with an exceptionally broad range of emotions. For encores she offered dazzling renditions of two celebrated arias — ‘Ecco: respiro appena… Io son l’umile ancella’ from Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur and ‘Vissi d’arte’ from Puccini’s Tosca – and a moving interpretation of something in a lighter vein, Harold Arlen’s ‘Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz.