Ready to go out with a bang, the Chautauqua Opera Company’s Young Artists have gathered their favorite repertoire from American and French composers for the final “Artsongs in the Afternoon” recital of the season at 4:15 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
This week’s recital, “An American in Paris,” offers music that touches on life’s key moments such as love and loss. The first half of the recital is French and the second half is in English.
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Feigenbaum will perform a set titled “Love After 1950” by American female composer Libby Larsen. Each piece within the cycle is set to the text of a female poet.
“I think it’s awesome because so many of the composers performed are men, so one of the really special things to me about this set is all of the texts were written by a female poet,” she said. “I think it is a unique look at love in a modern-day female perspective.”
The five songs have nothing to do with one another, Feigenbaum said, but rather tell the overall experience of living and loving. Larsen was born in 1950 and is essentially describing her life experience.
Fiegenbaum said Larsen’s piece “Boy’s Lips” describes being a young girl and laying in the backyard with friends. Suddenly, someone says, “Hey everybody, let me tell you what a boy’s lips feel like. I had my first kiss.’”
“Another song in the set is called ‘Big Sister Says,’ and this is all about the things women do for beauty, which I think is so funny and so telling,” Feigenbaum said. “The pieces are inspired by different styles of dance such as blues and tango.”
Bass-baritone Robert Nicholas Boragno is excited to sing repertoire of his choosing for this recital.
“I think that we are all doing music that we really wanted to do, and that makes for an ideal concert of passion — it is the end of the program and we get to make up our own rules,” Boragno said.
Boragno will sing French composer Jacques Ibert’s “Chansons de Don Quichotte.”
“The cycle is four songs and they are all really beautiful,” he said. “The first three songs focus on Dulcinee, his love interest. The last song is the death of Don Quichotte [Don Quixote] — he actually dies in the song on the last note.”
The pieces are exceptional, he said, but they are not performed often, so attendees might be looking forward to hearing them.
Baritone Richard Coleman is singing a traditional spiritual titled “Give Me Jesus” and American composer Lee Hoiby’s “Last Letter Home.”
“I chose things about being an American that mean a lot to me,” Coleman said. “I have heard this particular spiritual in church my whole life and been singing it my whole life.”
“Last Letter Home” depicts a soldier’s letter written while serving in Iraq, he said. The letter was sent home and could only be opened if the soldier died.
“The man in this song actually died, so the last words were to his wife, son and unborn child — it gets really deep,” he said. “When people have family in the military, not everyone comes back, and this is a real person, a real family and real lives.”
Coleman said the spiritual is accompanied by a violinist, and both songs are very emotional for him. But he has to switch gears and get happy for the “An American in Paris” pieces.
Vocal coach and pianist Jamison Livsey will accompany the Young Artists during their last recital. Along with the individual French and English sets performed by the artists, duets are featured and a performance of songs from the production “An American in Paris” takes place at the end.