It has been a few years since I last saw Deborah Voigt in Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen, so I, like many others at Koerner Hall last night, anticipated a recital that would include plenty of operatic favourites. I couldn’t have been more surprised when there was nothing from the world of opera included in her solo recital with collaborative pianist Brian Zeger.
Voigt came to Toronto to entertain her fans and to display her broad range of musical, dramatic and comedic skills with music that was both accessible and stylistically diverse. Her programme included Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss, but centred primarily on American art songs. It was a program about aspects of love and life to which anyone could relate.
Three Browning Songs Op.44, by American composer Amy Beach, began the love journey. The tuneful settings of Robert Browning’s poetry were both joyful and wistful. The vivid imagery poignantly pulled at the heart strings. Voigt’s singing conveyed every nuance of the text.
In two of the songs from Tchaikovsky’s Seven Romances, Op.47, there was both the despair of being entrapped in a loveless arranged marriage and a song of unbridled, joyful love. Voigt and pianist Zeger together created a magical combination of artistry. The recipe of her colourful voice and his expressive piano playing brought out all the emotion, especially in Den’ li tsarit where the poet sings to her lover of her all consuming love and faith.
The theme of love continued in the selections of lieder by Richard Strauss. Voigt continued to find all the emotion in each song. The first half of the concert ended all too soon. Voigt had the audience in the palm of her hand with the beauty and warmth of her singing.
In the second half and after a costume change, Voigt came out with more Americana. She was ready to have a good time with her audience. Her singing of Ben Moore’s songs was pure joy, followed by more frolic in the Cabaret Songs by William Bolcom. This was “music hall” singing at its best. She finished with selections by Leonard Bernstein ending with Somewhere from West Side Story. Her encores included Irving Berlin’s I Love a Piano and Jerome Kern’s Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.
At age 56, Voigt may be in the twilight of her operatic career, but her singing still has that powerful, rich, warm sound that will endure for some time to come. Her remarkable voice combined with her engaging dramatic and comedic rendering of text, will ensure that she continues to thrive on the world stage.
Brian Zeger and Deborah Voigt at Koerner Hall
DEBORAH VOIGT: a dramatic soprano diva with personal appeal seduces her audience!
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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON November 12th 2016