OPERA NEWS - Michelle Bradley, Will Liverman & Ken Noda
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In Review > Concerts and Recitals

Michelle Bradley, Will Liverman & Ken Noda

George London Foundation Recital Series | The Morgan Library & Museum

THE 2018-19 RECITAL SERIES of the George London Foundation opened on December 2. The Sunday afternoon performance showcased two 2017 George London Award winners—Michelle Bradley, soprano, and Will Liverman, baritone—accompanied by the superb Ken Noda on piano. 

Michelle Bradley’s handling of the notes above the staff in Strauss’s “Cäcilie” and “Pace, pace” are what Verdian sopranos are made of, but a true delight was the handling of her low and middle range. Before her encore—in which Bradley played piano and sang in a voice that tapped into Gospel riffs and jazzy slides—Bradley explained her church-choir upbringings in Kentucky, long before her interest in opera bloomed. No doubt this traditional liturgical music, which often skews low, influenced her exquisitely rich lower register; some mezzos can’t summon the depth and warmth below the staff that Bradley accessed in Ariadne’s “Es gibt ein Reich.” It’s a steely sound, hugely resonant and present, and if the top was a bit shrill in Ariadne’s aria, it warmed in Barber’s Hermit Songs. These ten songs, written in 1953, showcased Bradley’s vocal colors best in the legato movements, most especially “Promiscuity,” in which the vocal line feels at odds with the accompaniment. One quibble with Bradley’s rendition of the aria from La Forza del Destino: the Italian could use some work; I missed all the p’s in “Pace, pace” repetitions, and the double consonant rule was not obeyed. Lyrically, though, it was a dream.  

Will Liverman made his Met debut in October, in the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie. His baritone is one of sheer beauty—booming, round and totally consistent across his register; his high notes never thinned, his low notes were never too weighty. For his opener, Liverman chose Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel, but I’m not totally sure they worked here to highlight all of Liverman’s strengths; the piano accompaniment, played expertly by Noda, shares a starring role with the vocal line in these songs, and at times, it was hard to hear the baritone. But this could be a result of the acoustics in the theater at the Morgan. The absolute highlight of Liverman’s performance was his encore, not only because he accompanied himself on piano for a rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” but because he delivered it with the expression of someone who is totally in love with music. His delightful performances earlier in program of “Heiterkeit und Fröhlichkeit,” from Lortzing’s Der Wildschütz, and Grigory’s aria from The Tsar’s Bride, had me exited to hear Liverman in comedic roles of Mozart and Rossini. (A quick spin of his website tells me he’s sung Papageno and Barbiere’s Figaro.)

Another highlight was the final encore, in which Bradley and Liverman sang an a cappella rendition of “Silent Night,” complete with exquisite harmony. —Maria Mazzaro

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