Saturday, May 26, 2007

Paulina Rubio

No doubt singer Paulina Rubio hoped to jump-start the holiday weekend for a packed house at Wolf Trap on Thursday night, but the Mexican pop star had to settle for a crowd less than half that size.

Still, lots of hard-core fans shouted out the choruses to nearly every song the newlywed and her five-piece band performed during a kinetic, 80-minute concert. An early stop on an extensive tour, the show was teeming with international hits, skimpy costumes, a mostly dull assortment of visuals (including a snippet of the "Nada Puede Cambiarme" video, featuring Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash), and the kind of choreography that owes something to Madonna, Britney Spears and aerobics instructors everywhere.

After teasing the crowd behind a huge scrim that bore her portrait, Rubio opened with a full-throated version of "Ni Una Sola Palabra," a hit from her latest CD, "Ananda." Before long, though, she was unearthing tunes from her English-language album "Border Girl" (including the Kiss cover "I Was Made for Lovin' You"), two-stepping through "Dame Otro Tequila" with a small, Stetson-wearing dance troupe, and enlisting the audience's help during an acoustic reprise of "Mio."

The show had its miscues -- the ludicrously choreographed "Perros," for one. But the raspy-voiced Rubio was so busy celebrating her Latin, pop, club and rock influences, the lulls didn't last for long. Before the curtain fell, the singer cut into concession sales by shedding several T-shirts and tossing them to waves of outstretched hands.

-- Mike Joyce

Mathias Hausmann

During his recital of Shakespeare-inspired art songs at the Austrian Embassy on Thursday, baritone Mathias Hausmann recounted advice given to him by composer Paul Angerer not to sing Angerer's "Drei Narrenlieder From 'Twelfth Night' " too beautifully. Impossible. Hausmann, with his elegantly rounded tone, liquid legato and warmly communicative phrasing, possesses one of the most sheerly beautiful voices you're likely to hear today.

But the baritone was able to marry that attractive timbre to incisive delivery in the compellingly angular "Narrenlieder," as he did in another 20th-century selection, Hanns Eisler's trenchant "Horatio's Monologue." Hausmann, in fact, met the stylistic demands of an eclectic selection of composers, including Haydn, Schubert, Wolf, Gerald Finzi, Roger Quilter and Erich Korngold, switching gracefully back and forth between English and his native German.

A special attraction in this canny selection of songs was the chance to hear several composers' takes on a single text. "Come Away, Death" (from "Twelfth Night") was bleak in Angerer's hands but gently wistful for Finzi, while Quilter brought it into the world of popular, 1930s ballads, and Korngold made it sound like a lost song of Mahler's.

Pianist Elena Larina complemented Hausmann's readings every lovingly nuanced step of the way. And, as a soloist in Korngold's "Three Piano Pieces From 'Much Ado About Nothing,' " her phrasing was so idiomatically right, her touch so perfectly gauged, one longed to hear her in a recital of her own.

-- Joe Banno

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