From Stephen Salters, Powerful and Elegant Singing

Monday, December 5, 2005

Stephen Salters is one of the rising voices of the operatic world, and judging from his fearless and nearly flawless recital at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater (with pianist David Zobel) Saturday night, it's not hard to hear why.

Not only does he sound like God on a good day, but he's intensely imaginative and adventurous, navigating repertoire that would make most singers creep into the wings and weep. Saturday night was no exception: From the Washington premiere of William Bolcom's "To My Old Addresses" to a sublime "Begin the Beguine," Salters brought wit, brains and ain't-no-big-thing charm to every syllable.

Salters may be the thinking person's baritone, but pianist Zobel is no slouch either, and the interplay between the two was a constant joy. The whole recital, in fact, was so satisfying that it's hard to find a peak: Was it Salters's tender reading of Cesar Cui's "The Statue at Tsarskoe-Selo"? Bolcom's full-blooded setting of the Langston Hughes poem "Ballad of the Landlord"? Borodin's magnificent and moving "For the Shores of Your Far Native Land"? Or any of a dozen others?

Impossible to decide. This was sophisticated repertoire for a sophisticated voice, and Salters made the most of it. His sound is rich and powerful, with a slight roughness that adds to the bite. But Salters's command of detail and dynamics is precise and elegant, and it's no wonder that the audience brought him back for four spectacular encores.

-- Stephen Brookes

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