Misoon Ghim, mezzo-soprano in Review

Misoon Ghim, mezzo-soprano
Amy Yang, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
April 22, 2013

What an auspicious New York debut vocal recital, as two wonderful performers, mezzo soprano Misoon Ghim and pianist Amy Yang, presented songs from five stylistic periods, sung beautifully in five languages. I was most impressed by the high quality of the music they chose, and how these works allowed both performers to exhibit the many aspects of their fine technique and deep musicality.

And what better way to open a program than with the words “Music for a while/ Shall all your cares beguile,” the opening lines of Henry Purcell’s setting of John Dryden’s poem “Music for a while.” I was pleased that the performers chose an edition with a stylistically correct keyboard part, rather than one with the souped-up accompaniments so often used by singers who aren’t Baroque specialists. Ms. Ghim possesses a beautiful bright voice which is produced with great ease. (Darker vocal colors were to appear later in the concert.) Another Purcell work,  “Dido’s Lament,” followed. Most moving was her heartfelt singing of the words “remember me” which showcased her thrilling upper register. I did wonder why Ms. Ghim chose to ornament repeated lines during “Dido’s Lament,” while failing to decorate the da capo of “Music for a while.”

Next we heard four songs by Brahms. During these works Ms. Ghim produced many vocal colors to express the meaning of the words. Most memorable was her performance of “Die Mainacht” where we first heard her moving dark sound. Pianist Amy Yang, very much an accompanist during the Purcell, was given her first chance to shine during these songs. Her rapid finger work imitating the sound of spinning wheels during “Mädchenlied” and her stormy accompaniment during “Mein Liebe ist grun” gave us a foretaste of many pleasures to come.

The first half ended with a superb performance of Mozart’s Concert Aria “Ch’io mi scordi di te?” As the accompaniment of this work was originally scored for orchestra with obbligato piano, one could think of this piece as a concerto for voice and piano. It was therefore exciting to hear both of these fine musicians vie for our attention. That Ms. Ghim has been a success on the opera stage was vividly shown by her expert performance of the expressive opening recitative, the lyrical first section of the aria and then its thrilling dramatic conclusion. This was wonderful singing. Equally wonderful as both accompanist and second soloist  was pianist Amy Yang.

That the recital’s second half would maintain the high quality of the first half was made clear during the opening moments of the first of Mahler’s “Fünf Rückertlieder,” “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!” as Ms. Ghim spun out a most ravishing phrase. And at the climax of the intimate “Liebst du um Schönheit” she was very much the singing actress, as she lovingly caressed the words “o ja, mich liebe” (“oh yes, love me.”)  “Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder” allowed Ms. Ghim to show off her dark lower register and Ms. Yang to offer a sensitive accompaniment featuring a beautifully played left hand. Both performers shone during the very slow and quiet “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen.” But what sticks in my mind was Ms. Yang’s beautiful tone color and subtle phrasing, especially during the piano’s introduction, interludes and postlude. The last verse of “Um Mitternacht” brought the set to a goose-bump-producing- climax. For this listener, these Mahler songs were the highest point of a concert with many high points.

After a fine performance of Debussy’s “Fêtes galantes 1”, the program ended with “Cinco Cancione Negras” (“Five Black Songs”) by the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002.) Employing Spanish and West Indian rhythms and themes, these songs lightened the mood and showed us another side of Ms. Ghim’s artistry. She and Ms. Yang brought the concert to a jolly conclusion with a wild rendition of the last song, “Canto negro.”

Thanks to the Korean Music Foundation for bringing these wonderful artists before a very appreciative New York audience.

Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano in Review

Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano in Review
Metropolitan Opera, New York, NY
March 2 and 3, 2011
Follow up to review of October 28, 2003

Julie-Boulianne; Photo Credit: Dennis Kwan

One of the rewards of being a music critic is having the opportunity to anticipate the success of a young performer. Seven and a half years ago, my review of Julie Boulianne’s New York debut recital began: “It took just one or two phrases to realize that mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne, Joy in Singing’s 2003 Award Winner, is a great talent – a beautiful voice, a strong technique, a compelling stage presence.” And in the last paragraph I stated: “Her performance of the aria from ‘Les Huguenots’ leads one to anticipate success on the opera stage.” Recently I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Boulianne on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, singing small but attention-grabbing roles in performances of Glucks “Iphigénie en Tauride” (March 2nd) and Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette” (March 3rd.) And “success on the opera stage” it was!

In “Iphigénie en Tauride” Ms. Boulianne performed the role of the goddess Diana. As any deus ex machina should, she made her entrance rapidly dropping from the fly space above the stage while suspended by a wire. (I wonder how it must have felt beginning her Met debut on February 12th in such a manner.) In 2003 I heard her in the intimate confines of Merkin Concert Hall. But how would she fare on the vast stage of the Metropolitan Opera House? I am happy to report that her rich voice filled the hall (I was sitting in the balcony) and she commanded the stage just as the goddess she was portraying should.

When singing the pants role of Stephano in “Roméo et Juliette,” she had the stage to herself at the beginning of Act III. No longer as a goddess, but this time a young man, she sang her aria with impetuous abandon and was most convincing in the sword fight which followed.

These two fine performances give us a taste of what Ms. Boulianne is capable of. To again quote from my October 28, 2003 review: “This listener would relish the chance to hear her Cherubino.”

 Harry Saltzman for New York Concert Review; New York, NY