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Concert Review: Untested soprano in Y recital

Monday, March 27, 2000

By Robert Croan, Post-Gazette Senior Editor

The Y Music Society, which presents only one singer per season on its Carnegie Music Hall recital series, has had particularly bad luck lately. Last year, baritone Thomas Hampson became ill and postponed his recital to a later date. This past weekend, Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Voigt canceled on short notice as well. She will not appear here at all.

Taking Voigt's place at Carnegie Music Hall last evening was a younger, still untested soprano, Isabel Bayrakdarian, a 25-year-old Canadian of Armenian descent. Bayrakdarian is much in the news, in fact, as she will make her New York operatic debut this week in a concert version of Herold's rarely-heard "Zampa."

Bayrakdarian, who has gained recital experience thanks to the Marilyn Horne Foundation, offered music by three 20th-century composers -- Falla, Barber and Weill -- with a Tchaikovsky group thrown in for good measure. Add a Rossini aria for her encore, and you have five languages, although, curiously, no German Lieder, traditionally the meat of any recital program.

With Brian Zeger, Voigt's scheduled accompanist, at the piano, the young singer showed, in Falla's setting of "Seven Spanish Folk Songs," a clear, slender lyric sound, produced with refinement and a sense for the theatrical. There was little Spanish style in her interpretation -- nor in Zeger's timid keyboard underpinning -- but she had a winning way about her, and that carried her through many hurdles during the evening. Barber's "Hermit Songs," one of the great American song cycles, was carefully, cleanly performed but lacking in profile or personality.

Personality overshadowed musical elements in the second half, notably in the satire of Tchaikovsky's "The Cuckoo" and an unusual group of Weill songs in French. Bayrakdarian shone as a chanteuse -- in the Edith Piaf vein -- effectively capturing the bittersweet sentiments involved.

Her voice gained in volume, if not color, for an encore of "Bel raggio lusinghier," from Rossini's "Semiramide," which exposed more technical shortcomings than had been evident in her delivery of the song literature.



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