OPERA NEWS - Nadine Sierra & Carol Wong
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In Review > Concerts and Recitals

Nadine Sierra & Carol Wong

Weill Recital Hall

There was something wonderfully cozy and personal about soprano Nadine Sierra's May 11 recital at Weill Recital Hall. This was, in part, because she took the time to share with the audience some of what went into her programming choices. More important, she proved to be engaging and emotionally honest in her singing. Her voice is arresting, with a dark, pearly luster and an easy high pianissimo, which she exploited at every opportunity. At twenty-four, Sierra, a winner in the Grand Finals of the 2009 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, already exhibits a combination of presence, polish and pure talent that bodes well for a promising career.

She opened with Debussy's stratospheric Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse, whose lissome melodies demand flexibility and sweet sound. She had no trouble popping up to the outlying high notes, which vibrated with the taut shimmer of a violin, and she imbued the flights of coloratura with dramatic intent. If her French diction was not quite idiomatic, it was always intelligible. When she introduced Rachmaninoff's Six Songs, Op. 38, she talked about how much she had fallen in love with them, and the depth of her connection was apparent in her performance. She tamed her quick vibrato and leaned into the melodies, lingering expressively over her consonants. It was clear that she knew what every word meant — not just contextually, but personally.

Sierra introduced Leonard Bernstein's fanciful La Bonne Cuisine by explaining that she had conjured specific chefs for each of the recipes Bernstein loosely translated from a French cookbook. While her characterizations would have been entertaining in any case, it was definitely more fun to be privy to the specifics — an anorexic Frenchwoman sneaking tiny bites; Ina Garten, exuding warmth and magnanimity; and a morbidly obese gourmande insisting that her dish is "Turkish heaven." Sierra spat out the rapid-fire words with gusto and clear enjoyment and, like any good chef, provided a savory finish to each song.

After giving a touching tribute to her Portuguese mother and avowing her personal mission to promote Portuguese and Brazilian music, Sierra delivered a passionate and memorable performance of Modinhas e Canções, Series I, by Villa-Lobos. As was evident in the Rachmaninoff, she has an affinity for darkly colored, demonstrative, romantic music. The highlights of this set were the jazzy, tango-y "Lundú da Marqueza de Santos," the mournful "Cantilena" and the desperately nostalgic "Evocação." She closed with Villa-Lobos's alluring "Melodia sentimental" and Francisco Ernani Braga's nonsense ditty "Engenho novo," which she described as the Portuguese equivalent of "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck." Her encore, Grieg's "Ein Traum," was a seamlessly integrated addendum. Pianist Carol Wong played capably, but her touch was too limpid for Sierra's dynamic presence. spacer


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