Review: Kate Lindsey at Barns at Wolf Trap

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly described composer Mohammed Fairouz as Egyptian-born. He was born and raised in London and has lived in the United States for more than 10 years. This version has been corrected.

April 10, 2011

If Alma Mahler, Dominick Argento and Miss Manners had attended the same dinner party, the conversation would have been endlessly diverting. At least that was the impression given by an approximation of such an evening, the delectable recital by Kate Lindsey on Friday at the Barns at Wolf Trap.

It was a homecoming for the Richmond-born mezzo-soprano, whose first local triumph was the title role of Wolf Trap Opera Company’s production of “La Cenerentola” in 2005. Her voice remains rich and rarefied, a dark-colored ribbon of sound that is silky but not boringly smooth. In little sets of pleasing songs by Bizet, Liszt and Ives, she was by turns sultry and powerful, with a husky chest voice that never crossed into graininess. Kim Pensinger Witman, the director of Wolf Trap Opera, was a sensitive partner at the piano, providing a carefully crafted accompaniment.

The eclectic program may have kept attendance on the low side, but it revealed an adventurous musical spirit. This was seen, for example, in the song cycle “Jeder Mensch,” commissioned last year by Lindsey from the young British-born composer Mohammed Fairouz. The work’s appeal was due mostly to its incorporation of songs by Alma Mahler, who put her compositional aspirations aside when she married Gustav Mahler.

Miss Manners came late to the gathering via a song cycle by American composer Argento for the birthday of Judith Martin, who writes under that pen name. Argento selected texts of letters to Miss Manners and Martin’s responses, all of which deal with musical matters, such as concert manners, booing and tolerating dissonant modern music. The music is wry and charming, and Lindsey and Witman played up the cycle’s chameleon-like impersonations of regional accents and composers’ styles.

— Charles T. Downey

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