While Chautauqua Institution enjoys its high point of the summer season, things are about to get low at the Hall of Christ. Really low, in fact.
The Artsongs recital at 4:15 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ features a trio of Young Artists, all with deep voices.
The singers will be using their vocal range to take the audience through the trials and tribulations of love.
Love has a beginning, represented by bass-baritone Brandon Coleman and mezzo Caitlin Bolden, lovers at first sight in “All At Once You Love Her,” from Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical, Pipe Dream. A romance between a marine biologist and a girl with low morals, the duet displays what Bolden calls “present love,” the inception of a fresh relationship.
With Claude Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis, a collection of songs set to Sappho-like poetry, Bolden sings of satyrs, water nymphs and pan flutes.
This triptych of a romantic, sensual love song is, she said, a microcosm of the whole show. It’s the quick, emotional changes that aren’t easy in character.
“I have to know as a singer where [my character’s] going to end up, but I can’t put that into my performance at all,” Bolden said. “The first song has to have that innocence … I can’t know that, 10 minutes later, it’s all going to end.”
Jared Guest, baritone, finds that in this sporadic shift — from Gustav Mahler’s “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” to an Italian, Paolo Tosti aria like “Addio” — it helps to just be “present.”
“You can’t play the first song like you know the relationship is going to end,” he said. “You have to live in the actual time you are singing.”
Being present appears difficult for the narrator of Johannes Brahms’ Von ewiger Liebe, who sings of lovers brooding over the inevitable ending to their romance. Guest said that Brahms’ music depicts the “drama inherent” in the transient relationship.
Rolling along the journey, the next stop is Coleman channeling Paul Robeson’s baritone with “Ol’ Man River,” from the 1936 film musical Showboat.
A Coleman favorite, this is his first time performing the American standard alone on stage — but certainly not his last, he hopes. He said it helps now to know the context and meaning of “Ol’ Man River” in that of the whole musical.
“Now that I understand it, I can sing it much better,” he said.
But Coleman goes much deeper — to a low F, precisely — in his version of Franz Schubert’s “Der Atlas,” a piece that is mythological in nature with grand, classical themes of “eternal pain” and happiness, he said. In Der Atlas, besides treading the depths of
Hades, Coleman also goes from singing one of his lowest notes to singing of his highest.
Coleman’s earth-shaking voice, especially with Schubert or Schumann’s Die Beiden Grenadiere, Bolden said, represents well the end-of-all theme that rings throughout the piece.
“Bassists always sing about death,” she said. “That’s just what they do. A lot of people imagine that Death has a very low voice.”
Guest agreed — somewhat. He thinks that low, rumbling voices are most of all associated with “villains,” but are also best “identified with strength and comfort” and a “source of maturity.”
Death, being very close in nature to the dissolution of love, Guest said, is surely matched correctly with today’s hauntingly voiced trio.
For Coleman, the part of the recital he’s looking forward to most isn’t the resolution at its close, or the promise of new beginnings and hope, but the simple fact that he will be accompanied by two other singers with Fächer as low as his.
“I don’t feel alone at all,” he said.