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-- Sarah Godfrey
While some song recitals go for deep emotion or sonic brilliance, the delightful performance by esteemed British soprano Felicity Lott and accompanist Graham Johnson at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Thursday evening focused more on whimsy and character. In a program of songs creatively gathered under the title "Fallen Women and Virtuous Wives," Lott variously became women of rectitude, loneliness and depravity, expertly wielding her focused and flexible voice with its warm radiance and gleaming top.
Surprisingly ribald songs of classical composers Mozart and Haydn, as well as more overflowing romantic works, traced an arc from the charming to the serious and back. Lott set the mood with an intentionally hard-edged and breathy "Nanna's Song," ladling Kurt Weill's 1939 work with a world-weariness that seemed far removed from the enraptured tenderness of "Here I'll Stay," which closed out the first half. Along with beautiful characterizations of Brahms and Schumann songs, Lott called forth the tragic heroine Ophelia in radiantly delivered works of Richard Strauss.
After intermission, the musicians skillfully plumbed such gorgeous, lighthearted French works as Reynaldo Hahn's pleasingly sinister and melodic "It Is Very Bad to Be Unfaithful." Lott also delivered a trio of Noel Coward songs with confidence and panache.
At every turn, Johnson played with a continual sense of balance and rapport that was sensitive to the texts and mood. The Vocal Arts Society of Washington presented this memorable evening.
-- Daniel Ginsberg