Young Artists wow opera fans
This review first appeared in the The Denver Post
With a voice and a personality to match, bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green wowed a crowded audience at an Opera Colorado art-song recital Friday.
Along with two other Opera Colorado Young Artists — baritone Benjamin Moore and soprano Christie Hageman — Green performed a range of popular recital songs that showcased his remarkably round, resonant tone. Not to mention, the sheer vigor and volume of his voice easily spilled over the evening’s venue, Denver’s Church of the Ascension. To many in attendance, it’s no surprise that the 24-year-old won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions earlier this month.
In Franz Schubert’s “Der Doppelgänger” and “Der Atlas,” Green brought excellent diction and vocal muscle to the songs, both set to words by German poet Heinrich Heine. But here, as well as in Johannes Brahms’ “O Tod” and “Wenn ich mit Menschen,” nuance and inflection were arguably somewhat lacking from Green’s delivery.
It wasn’t until the second half of the program that the up-and-coming star came into his own. In “A Quiet Girl” from Leonard Bernstein’s “Wonderful Town,” Green’s performance was at times wonderfully soft and subtle, and his interpretation of “This Was Nearly Mine” from Rich ard Rodgers’ “South Pacific” was emotive and musically spot-on.
Perhaps most memorable of Green’s selections, however, was his poignant, intimate portrayal of Langston Hughes’ poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”
Not to be outdone, Moore’s tender, deeply felt performance of Lee Hoiby’s “Private First Class Jesse Givens” was the highlight of the first half of the program. While not as ample and voluminous as Green’s bass-baritone, Moore’s baritone is deft and nimble . . . and perfectly suited to depict the inner language of private contemplation, as in his fervent, a capella rendering of “If I Can Help Somebody” by Alma Bazel Androzzo.
Hageman’s light and lyrical soprano rounded out the program in a progression of French works. Her strongest performance of the evening was in Francis Poulenc’s “Deux Poèmes de Louis Aragon” in which she gracefully executed the composer’s complex, surrealist themes. However, Hageman’s renditions of a trio of songs immortalized by legendry chanteuse Edith Piaf were debatably over-acted and wanting a measure of Piaf’s worldly and suggestive flair.
That said, all three songsters are abundantly talented and share a tremendous potential for operatic success. Kudos also to pianist Ruth Ann McDonald for her skilled accompaniment.