Paradoxically in this year of declining economy we have had very important artists in recital. At the end of the season two illustrious visitors were back after long absences. Renée Fleming is considered by many to be the best lyrical soprano nowadays, and Itzhak Perlman´s trajectory as violinist has few parallels. She closed the Abono del Bicentenario at the Colón, whilst he played the same benefit programme at the Coliseo and the Colón. I give pride of place to the lady.
Fleming was the Countess in Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro" in 1991, in a production by Sergio Renán which she remembered fondly in a recent interview. She was then at the start of her international fame, although already an accomplished artist. Unfortunately we missed her during the succeeding years, in which she was a radiant Mozart and Richard Strauss soprano, but also shone in French parts or Dvorák´s "Russalka". Blessed with beauty, a lovely timbre and an innate good taste, she demonstrated now that she is equally at home in a varied programme of wide range.
Her accompanist of many years was Gerald Martin Moore (debut), who proved to be excellent: perfect mechanism, sensitive touch, impeccable ensemble with the singer and sharp stylistic sense. Music lovers surely know Gerald Moore (no kin), the legendary partner of the greatest singers during golden decades, but Gerald Martin Moore is a worthy successor. She chose three of the six exquisite "Ariettes oubliées" by Debussy on Verlaine´s wonderful texts, and immediately showed her feeling for the idiom, with admirable French diction and the elusive charm this repertoire needs. It was surely a useful decision to include all texts in the hand programme with adequate translations. Then, three of the refined arrangements of Auvergne songs by Joseph Canteloube, sung in dialect with easy fluency. Korngold came next, first with an arrangement of a Johann Strauss Jr. waltz, "Frag´mich Oft" ("I often ask myself") from the potpourri operetta "Walzer aus Wien" ("The Great Waltz"), where I would have liked a bit more of Viennese innuendo. But Marietta´s aria from "Die Tote Stadt" ("The Dead City") fits her like a glove, her gloriously creamy sound honeying every line.
A Richard Strauss group of selected Lieder started the Second Part, and she was predictably marvelous in the dexterity of the "Serenade", the suspended ecstacy of "Morgen" ("Morning") and the exuberance of "Zueignung" ("Dedication"). Then, the doleful music of Verdi´s Desdemona in "Otello": the whole scene of the Fourth Act encompassing recitative, "Willow Song" and "Ave Maria", her vivid sense of drama meshing with the sweetest vocal emission. In complete contrast, two arias from the "other" "Boheme", Leoncavallo´s, changing the announced order thus: "Musette svaria sulla bocca viva", sung by "Mimì", and "Mimì Pinson, la biondinetta", sung by "Musetta"; jolly pieces both, where Fleming adopted with versatility the Parisian inflexions of the characters. And finally, a model version of Cilea´s gorgeous aria from "Adriana Lecouvreur", "Io son l´umile ancella".
The packed house (at very high prices) gave her a rousing reception and five encores ensued. No one sings Dvorák´s "Russalka" ("O silver moon") so beautifully as Fleming; it was one of the highest achievements of the night. Then, an amazing "Summertime" from Gershwin´s "Porgy and Bess", where she, a white singer, has internalized the inflexions of Southern Negros with uncanny realism. She then said she has never sung in Spanish, so this was the first time: she chose "No lloréis ojuelos", a florid "Canción amatoria" by Granados; her diction will improve with time. Of course, "O mio babbino caro" (from Puccini´s "Gianni Schicchi") is ideal for her. And she sung goodbye with a fast, jubilant interpretation of Delibes´ "Les filles de Cadix". Please let us have her in a complete opera soon!
It would be redundant and silly to retell here the career of Itzhak Perlman, certainly one of the most feted violinists of our era. He was here just once, seventeen years ago, for a recital and, with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Tchaikovsky´s Concerto. At the time he was 50 and at the top of his form. That visit was memorable. Now 67, he came by invitation of Jabad Lubavitch Argentina in benefit of social programs. He was accompanied by his partner of many years, the talented Sri Lanka pianist Rohan De Silva. Perlman chose a rather short programme of unhackneyed scores by great composers.
Mozart´s last Sonata, K. 526, started the proceedings. The pianist was absolutely immaculate; the violinist not quite so: the articulation was correct but the sound was rather small and lacklustre. I thought maybe that is his view of Mozart, but alarmingly the same thing happened in Fauré´s First Sonata, a fine example of French late Romanticism; the pianist was mechanically sound but not quite in style, and Perlman played well, yes, though without the lusty, full timbre one remembered from him. The objective, Neoclassic Stravinsky of the "Italian Suite" (based on his "Pulcinella") suited both artists much better.
Encores: no less than seven! Kreisler´s "Tempo di Menuetto in the style of Pugnani"; the heartfelt "Hebrew Melody" by Achron-Heifetz, perhaps Perlman´s best performance; the Albéniz-Kreisler Tango from "España"; the brilliant Scherzo-Tarantelle by Wieniawski; the Theme from "Schindler´s list" by John Williams; the Spanish Dance Nº2 from De Falla´s "La Vida breve" as arranged by Kreisler; and Bazzini´s virtuosic "Ronde des lutins" ("Goblins´ Round").For Buenos Aires Herald