Jamie Barton & Kathleen Kelly Recital
Carnegie Hall & Marilyn Horne Foundation
Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall
5th March, 2010
Rising young mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton displayed a gorgeous voice, admirable technical mastery and promising dramatic flair in a debut recital on Friday night with the sensitive and excellent pianist Kathleen Kelly.
It was a pleasure to be in the audience for this recital, presented by Carnegie Hall in collaboration with the Marilyn Horne Foundation; it felt as if we were attending the beginning point of a wonderful career, though that wouldn’t be quite true as Ms. Barton’s successes have already taken her to many of the most prestigious operatic and concert venues in the US.
Ms. Barton’s voice is exceptional—dark or bright, tender or powerful as she chooses—and her singing, from start to finish, displayed the kind of healthy, uncomplicated technical delivery that is equally rare in both young and seasoned artists. She has no detectable vocal quirks, mannerisms or crutches. Attacks are clean, unfussy and she can make a note bloom in any part of her range. She possesses a caliber of voice that doesn’t come along very often in the course of one’s lifetime and I, for one, hope to have the pleasure of hearing her for a long time to come.
The programming, a potpourri of various epochs, languages and styles, was nothing exciting in itself; it didn’t need to be. Ms. Barton began with two English baroque songs in arrangements by Benjamin Britten and finished the first half with Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. The best of this half was “Um Mitternacht,” which allowed Ms. Barton to open up her vocal gears and show off the ravishing power of her top. If one were to quibble, one might say that her delivery of these songs, especially of the unspeakably sublime “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,” was not as profound as versions we’ve had from great artists over the years. Still, it never felt as if Ms. Barton was trying to make her interpretations more than they were, and so these songs, some of the best in the repertoire, came across honestly and simply.
The second half of the program opened with three cabaret songs, from Satie, Schoenberg and Bolcom. The Schoenberg, “Mahnung,” was the most interesting because it gave Ms. Barton the most to do vocally. Again, she met every vocal challenge with beauty and fearlessness. The cabaret songs were followed by a Libby Larsen set—Love After 1950—the art song equivalent of a chick flick. I found the songs themselves cloying and uninteresting musically, but, as they say, chacun à son goût. The concert ended with three stunning Rachmaninov songs that left one wanting more.
Ms. Barton’s encore, a genuinely very funny song about the sad fate of alto lines in musical theater, was brilliantly delivered.
Bottom Line: Extraordinary. Brava. Encore. Please.