Joyce El-Khoury, Soprano in ReviewJoyce El-Khoury, Soprano in Review Olga Koussevitzky First Prize Winner; The Musicians Club of New York Natalia Katyukova, piano The A&D Building; 150 E. 58th Street; New York, NY April 28, 2011
Joyce El-Khoury has an absolutely glorious voice that can easily project to the last row of the balcony in any opera house. Her top register is exquisite because she can belt it with great authority, but can also allow it to float to pianissimo, with subtle colors.
She also has a marvelous dramatic and stylistic range. Going from Puccini’s “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” to Verdi’s “Arrigo, ah, parli a un core” is no easy task, but she conveyed the requisite strength and innocence when necessary. And her varying abilities with diction and style were confirmed with a mesmerizing performance of “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka”. Singing in Czech, she lent a unique solemnity and vulnerability to the music. Ravel’s “Sheherazade” was tender and abundantly seductive and expressive. The lavish orchestra part, transcribed for piano, is difficult for the pianist, but Natalia Katyukova did an amazing job of recreating the symphonic colors. In addition, she was able to play her multitude of notes flawlessly in low light and without a page turner.
In Verdi’s “E Strano…” aria from “La Traviata”, she pulled out all the stops, bringing intense timing to the silences as well as great beauty to her entrances. Her sheer volume of sound is so powerful at times, that the chandelier seemed to sway along with the music. Dramatically, she was always in the moment, even when Katyukova had a lengthy tutti section at the piano. This was top-tier singing and music-making; the chemistry between El-Khoury and Katyukova was palpable throughout the evening. Unfortunately, the concert was not publicized in the right places, as there were too many empty seats. As beautiful as the Architects and Design (A&D) Building is, Steinway Hall (where the winner’s recital was last year) brings in more people. There is no doubt that a performer with El-Khoury’s credentials is an excellent draw; she sings at the MET and with orchestras such as The Munich Philharmonic. She has an exciting future ahead of her.