She flaunts it, Dana Beth Miller does. Going through six languages in
a 70-minute recital, she exhibited a huge voice... hugely. The young
soprano, with many attributes of her native Texas, appeared tonight in
the Temple Emanu-el concert hall in an incorrectly identified program.
As James Schwabacher himself pointed out, with considerable force, this
was the Schwabacher DEBUT Recital Series, even if the program publishers
tried to save on ink by deleting the crucial "debut." The word signifies
both Schwabacher's intention and the level of expectation that's proper
for these concerts. Even though Susan Graham, Anna Netrebko, Deborah
Voigt, Brian Asawa and Thomas Hampson have been heard here, they all
sang early in their career, and appeared in a prestigious recital -
rather than in opera - for the first time locally.
Miller too has a considerable track record - singing with the San
Francisco, New York City and Dallas opera companies, winning competitions
from coast to coast - but the fact that this concert was a kind of
introduction is important. Only from that viewpoint was it "Impress,
10; Connect, 5; Flaws, many." A few more years further in her career,
the verdict would be more lopsided, but in context, most importantly,
she impressed, even if at times with "too much of a good thing."
Hers is a powerful, full-bodied, well-place voice, dark enough to
make some listeners wonder if she'll end up a mezzo, and the projection
is positively Wagnerian. Alas, that's not what the venue calls for.
Just as a trio of current Adler Fellows two weeks ago, Miller over-sang,
overmodulated, over-reached time and again, bringing to mind Garrick
Ohlsson a few nights back, thundering away on his monstrous Fazioli grand
piano in Davies Hall. Nonharmonic overtones were bouncing about on both
occasions, the over-singing in the Temple at times resulting in what
sounded like pitch contour problems.
Is it the fault of hall's acoustics then? If you remember Pocket Opera
performances in this venue, Donald Pippin balancing the sound flawlessly,
the matter of responsibility returns to the performer. Youth, inexperience,
and trying too hard are the main reasons for the shouting of Verdi's
"Stornello," the diction coming and going in an overproduced Strauss
"Cacilie," the all-wrong Rachmaninoff "Spring waters."
On the other hand, Miller - with considerable help from accompanist
Monica Vanderveen - sang in a more restrained, and far more effective,
manner when it came to Strauss' "Morgen," the opening "und" coming from
nowhere, the way it should. The soprano was also in better form in three
songs by the rarely-performed Emile Paladilhe (whose five operas may yet
see the light of day again), best in "O cher enfantelet," but unfortunately
"turning on the juice" in the final "Psyche." Joaquin Turina's "Poems
in Form of Songs" received a great lead-in from Vanderveen's piano solo,
"Dedicatoria," followed by Miller's ups and downs among the songs. The
singer's complicity (with the program organizers) in not preventing
applause between songs brought serious consequences in the Turina cycle,
breaking up the essential continuity.
Miller concluded the recital with a "Broadway section" of Kern, Weill,
and Hart, singing with "operatic" formality where one longed for more
direct musical communication.
[log in to unmask]