Deborah Voigt - of Fullerton, the Merola Program, an 1986 Adler Fellow,
an outstanding Ariadne in 2002 - is always welcome in San Francisco, and
so she was tonight in Davies Hall. Expectations were high on the second
night of her engagement with the San Francisco Symphony, to sing Richard
Strauss' "Four Last Songs" and Barber's "Andromache's Farewell."
Against those expectations, these were the facts: the finest singing
tonight came from the violin of concertmaster Alexander Barantschik (in
"Beim Schlafengehen") and from the orchestra under the magic baton of
Michael Tilson Thomas. Why MTT is not coveted by the greatest opera
houses (and, especially, by the San Francisco Opera, across the street)
is a mystery.
The orchestral portion of the Strauss was perfection itself, ditto the
Barber, and the band soared as well in the rest of the unusually varied
program - Oliver Knussen's Symphony No. 3 and Beethoven's "neglected"
Symphony No. 4 - in this otherwise tradition-bound season, typified
by Herbert Blomstedt's all-Tchaikovsky and all-Mozart programs.
Well, what of Voigt? The first three Strauss songs provided an acute
disappointment. Big, too big, sound, not nearly enough beautiful singing
and honest feelings - and, surprisingly from Voigt, lousy diction.
Sitting nine rows away and knowing the text by heart, I couldn't make
out the words.
There was a change in "In Abendrot," Voigt singing more quietly, words
coming across much better. In the Barber, diction was excellent, not
nearly as much "shouting" as in the Strauss, but again beauty and singing
were to be found in the orchestra more than in the vocal performance.
It was a homecoming won by the team, with the queen strangely "off."
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