Clearly the word was out, yesterday. Chrissellene Petropoulos was making her Washington debut at the Phillips Collection and the small gallery was packed. The young soprano has received most of her musical education around here (she now studies with Todd Duncan). People who know her, her teachers and her friends, believe she is someone to watch, and, indeed, yesterday, she gave every indication they are right.
Her program covered the field. There were lieder by Mozart and Mahler, songs by Poulene and Barber's charming "Knoxville, Summer of 1915." But for a preview of the Petropoulos artistry to come, the four Greek songs were the ones to focus on.
These were not only in her head and on her vocal chords, they were in her heart and in her blood as well. In them she was able to relax, to let her voice do the kinds of things a voice teacher can't program into a student.
Petropoulos starts with a rich assortment of gifts: a fine, good-sized voice, a reliable ear, solid musicianship, evident intelligence and a background of excellent teachers.
All of these were apparent in her performances. In the Mozart she was able to bring clean and lovely sounds to both extremes of her range. The recitative was marvelously executed, and when she gains the confidence to let herself go on the rest of the piece, it should be spectacular.
The Mahler found her singing with more opulence, but still without the sort of internalization that made the Greek songs such a joy.
Her voice adjusted nicely to the lighter touch of the Poulenc "Airs Chantes," and reverted to a sort of little-girl sound for the Barber.
When her French and Italian and German soul are as developed as her Greek one is already, she should be a knockout. William Bloomquist's accompaniments were, on the whole, faceless.