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Even singing pop, soprano is a classic
Seattle Post-Intelligencer- 5/ 22/ 2004
Soprano Dawn Upshaw, on only her second visit to Seattle, joined the Seattle Symphony Thursday night to sing a collection of Broadway classics in a concert that could well have been titled "The Different Aspects of Love" instead of "Dawn at Dusk."

The thread which strung them all together only gradually became apparent, as Upshaw sang both well-known and lesser-known songs by the Gershwin brothers, Rodgers and Hart, Kurt Weill, Vernon Duke, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

One was wistful (Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me"), another ecstatic ("Do, Do, Do" by the same), regretful (Rodgers' "He was Too Good to Me), sassy (Duke's "The Sea-Gull and the Ea-Gull"), hopeful, lonely, or dreaming, but all except "Sea-Gull" -- one of Ogden Nash's inimitable poems -- were the view of someone loving alone. Her singing of "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" was particularly moving, so clear a portrayal it was of simultaneous disbelief and hope.

Upshaw, one of today's great opera singers, is as at home in pop music as classical, and her timing was perfect. Every word was audible, yet she wasn't spitting them out, she was communing with the audience; the control of her voice in all registers and her relaxed and easy sound made each song a delight to hear. Upshaw used a mike, but the enhancement was subtle, and it made the songs all the more intimate.

In addition, music director Gerard Schwarz and the orchestra performed Gershwin's "An American in Paris" and Bernstein's Overture to "Candide." In both, they caught the nonchalant cheerfulness, the zany exuberance of these quintessential American works.

Nineteen members of the winds, brass and percussion sections made up a chamber orchestra to play Kurt Weill's "Little Threepenny Music," melodies from "The Threepenny Opera."

However, the musicians sat in their usual seats at the back and it seemed a lost opportunity not to have them playing up front, where audience members could have seen and matched instrument to sound. Particularly this was a pity as the instruments included saxophones, accordion, guitar and banjo, not regularly heard in the orchestra; and the musicians who played them and the piano were not identified in any way.

Free-lancer Philippa Kiraly has been writing about classical music in Seattle since 1991.
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