Over the past decade, Richard Stilwell has developed from a light and rather colorless baritone into a singer with an expressive voice, a stage presence and a sense of style. There is nothing like a lot of first-class experience in a variety of media and with a variety of artistic companions to fire up a singer's development, and Stilwell has been all over the place, on opera and concert stages and, most recently, in recording studios in the role of Pelleas. But a modicum of physical equipment is also a help, and this, Stilwell has in spades. He has a lovely voice of medium size that is as suited to lieder as to opera.
His recital at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater yesterday held a nice balance of love, humor and passion. He approached Schumann's "Dichterliebe" cycle with a directness that was refreshing but occasionally unpoetic--the moment of declared love in "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh," for instance, which bleated rather than melted, and on occasion resulted in flat notes with concentration lapses.
He brought lovely Gallic lyricism to songs by Duparc and Ravel. The third of Ravel's "Don Quichotte" songs, the drinking song, got a rather strait-laced reading, but may have been funnier because of the restraint.
Finally honed performances of songs by Stephen Foster and Ives led to a marvelous account of the moving "Billy in the Darbys" from Britten's "Billy Budd."
Dale Anthony accompanied nimbly and stylishly.