Opera Young Artists conclude ‘Artsongs in the Afternoon’ series




Leah Harrison | Staff Writer

This afternoon’s art song recital marks the beginning of the last hoorah for Chautauqua Opera Company’s studio artists, starting a string of four performances in three days. The last installment in the “Artsongs in the Afternoon” series, bass-baritone Brad Walker, tenor Jesse Darden and mezzo-soprano Ellen PutneyMoore will perform at 4 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.

Those singers have the unique position of having observed every other recital in this series, so they have the greatest opportunity to employ lessons learned from watching their colleagues.

“Everyone’s storytelling and communicative skills have been incredible, so I’m going to try to emulate that,” PutneyMoore said. “Even if they’re singing in another language, I always understand what they want me to understand. All my colleagues have done an incredible job at that. And they all look like they’re having a good time. I hope I can just relax and enjoy the process.”

PutneyMoore has not sung art songs for five years.

“I’ve been singing a lot of sad, serious bel canto repertoire, so it’s exciting and a little scary to go back to the art songs,” she said. “They’re something you have to have fun with instead of being so full of pathos all the time.”

Walker enjoys art songs for their tendency to show a multi-faceted character.

“I love it when you see the person,” he said. “Art song has this really cool ability to both show the character you’re singing and also who you are as a person.”

The bass-baritone sang on the first art song recital to fill out a quartet, so he learned a few things about the series.

“It’s definitely an interesting hall to sing in,” Walker said. “As you hear different voices sing — lower, higher, louder, softer — you sort of get what the hall likes and doesn’t like, and what you have to bring out musically to carry all the way to the back of the hall.

Darden’s experience listening to his peers takes the edge off any performance nerves.

“Whenever I listen to my colleagues, I’m immediately put at ease,” Darden said. “The artistry is very high with this group.”

Darden will sing three Liszt songs with text by Victor Hugo. The songs are broad and grand like many of Liszt’s piano compositions, but they are also somewhat understated, comparatively. He will also sing Finzi’s “Farewell to Arms,” two heavy songs regarding wartime.

Walker will sing selections from Schubert’s “Schwanengesang” that have text by Heinrich Heine. He has sung excerpts from the cycle before and hopes to perform the whole set on his upcoming master’s recital at the University of Kansas.

Walker will join PutneyMoore in singing four Bolcom cabaret songs. They will split the songs — PutneyMoore will sing “Amor” and “Waitin,” and Walker will perform “Fur (Murray the Furrier)” and “Song of Black Max (as told by the De Kooning Boys).” Though those songs are generally recorded by women, Bolcom did not gender the songs, and Walker attended a master class in which the composer instructed a male to sing “Black Max.”

PutneyMoore will also sing three Rossini songs from “La Regata Veneziana.” In the first song, a woman is giving her love a pep talk before a boat race.

“My favorite part is when she says, ‘Win, or don’t bother coming home,’” PutneyMoore said. “She’s my kind of lady.”

The recital will end with a Chautauqua-specific rendition of the “Paradox Trio” from The Pirates of Penzance.