Between February and April there will be four concerts featuring superb singers partnered with outstanding pianists. The programming is rich and varied, including popular favorites and unexpected treasures of the song literature.
According to Jane Moss, Ehrenkranz Artistic Director of Lincoln Center, "Alice Tully Hall is a superior hall in New York City for vocal recitals but it has about one thousand seats, so we look for singers who are special artists for whom there is also a particular interest among our audiences."
Opening the series on February 4 are American tenor Matthew Polenzani and pianist Julius Drake. Polenzani, well known to opera audiences for his starring roles at the Met and elsewhere, is also an accomplished recitalist. Polenzani and Drake together selected music for the program, which includes works by Beethoven, Liszt, Ravel, Satie, and Barber.
Polenzani said, "We chose Beethoven's 'Adelaide' not just because of his sublime music, but also because I like starting out a recital with something classical in nature. It reminds me of my vocal roots. We recently recorded some of the Liszt songs. Compared to his symphonic and piano repertory, his songs are relatively unknown. He sets the words so brilliantly in the music, but I also love the virtuosity required for the piano music, which suits Julius to a T. There is a beautiful two-way conversation going on between the words and the piano, which I find particularly satisfying."
Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, which are often sung by women, was Drake's idea. Polenzani remarked, "I've sung other music that is typically associated with women singers. These days, women are singing Winterreise and Dichterliebe. Men have even sung Frauenliebe und -Leben. Strictly looking at the texts, there's only one Hermit song, 'Saint Ita's Vision,' that is clearly written from a woman's point of view. But 'Church Bells at Night' is written from a man's point of view. These songs suit my sensibilities as an artist, and I feel these texts resounding in my heart when I sing them."
Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci has achieved cult status in New York thanks to her two previous appearances at Lincoln Center in 2012 and 2013. She performs with pianist Donald Sulzen on March 5. Of her debut, The New York Times wrote, "Her singing found an uncanny balance between intense expressivity and magisterial elegance."
Antonacci has planned an all-French program, encompassing Romanticism and Impressionism, including works of Berlioz, Duparc, Debussy, and Ravel. One of the highlights will be Poulenc's La voix humane, a monodrama with text by Jean Cocteau that is a tour-de-force for a singer who can convey a range of emotions in musical and dramatic terms. The audience hears one side of a phone call between a woman and the man who is ending their relationship.
The series concludes with performances by two remarkable English singers. The mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly sings Mahler's R‹ckert- Lieder and works of Schubert, Elgar, and Copland in her recital with pianist Joseph Middleton on April 12. Moss said, "We are a big supporter of Sarah Connolly. Not all opera singers are great Lieder singers, but she is."
Simon Keenlyside, the compelling British baritone, is joined by pianist Emanuel Ax for a program of French works by Duparc, Debussy, Poulenc, Ravel, and Faur_ (April 29). Keenlyside's mastery of music and words that call for insightful introspection will be well-matched by Ax's poetic pianism.
Moss has also programmed Great Voices on Film, in association with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Classifilms. The films, to be screened at the Walter Reade Theater, offer the priceless opportunity to see and hear marvelous artists who might be retired, deceased, or seldom perform in New York.
The first two programs, entitled "Oh Love Divine," will focus on Handel. His oratorio, Theodora, comes on March 2 and will be introduced by Cori Ellison. The cast has Dawn Upshaw in the title role, with David Daniels, Frode Olsen, Richard Croft, and the unforgettable Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Peter Sellars directed this controversial production for Glyndebourne in 1996, and the conductor is William Christie.
The second Handel program (March 4) will be introduced by Benjamin Sosland. It includes an act from Alcina in Adrian Noble's 2010 production for the Vienna State Opera. The cast is led by Anja Harteros, one of opera's most riveting stars who is seldom seen outside of central Europe, and includes the excellent Vesselina Kasarova and Veronica Cangemi. The conductor is Marc Minkowski. The program is completed by archival footage of some of the early and mid-20th century's great Handel interpreters.
The next two events (both on April 1) will focus on Kurt Weill and include such legendary artists as Lotte Lenya and Teresa Stratas. Moss is certain that audiences who love the vocal arts will be enthralled. "The films in this series are surprisingly compelling, especially now that people are used to watching opera in high definition (HD) transmissions. It's a real treat to be able to revisit these great productions and interpretations."