Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The voice of Phyllis Bryn-Julson mutters, glides, takes great convulsive leaps, escalates into a high-pitched scream of pure horror; "Giant, somber black butterflies have killed the glory of the sun."
The words come in German, of course; Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" defies translation, as anyone who has heard it performed in English can testify. The heavy, crisp German syllables blend with the music in a seamless amalgam of light fantasy, pure horror and macabre humor that loses most of its point when any of the delicately balanced elements is even slightly disarranged.
Monday night in the Baird Auditorium, all the elements were just right - as they usually are when Bryn-Julson is singing with the Theater Chamber Players.
It was the last program to be offered by this ensemble as a group in residence at the Smithsonian. In February, they will rematerialize as the Theater Chamber Players of Kennedy Center, and their home will be the Kennedy Center's new Studio Theater. Let us hope its acoustics and its audiences will be as kind to the group as those of the Baird Auditorium have been - which is no kinder than they deserve.
Monday's program was typical of those the Players have been offering for years - not only in the generally high quality of performance but in the imaginative blend of old and modern music, familiar and unfamiliar.
Before climaxing with the Schoenberg, the group performed a Haydn piano trio flawlessly, Bryn-Julson sang five Wolf songs, and Pina Carmirelli performed a Bach unaccompanied violin sonata that was remarkably as musical in effect as it was athletic.