Opera singer and educator Phyllis Curtin brought her regal bearing and lovely soprano voice to The Barns at Wolf Trap last night for a concert devoted exclusively to the songs of Cole Porter. If, like many classical artists, Curtin's affection for popular music sometimes outweighed her ability to convincingly interpret it, her performance nevertheless made for a charming evening of music.
Least suited to the singer's talents were lyrics like "Love for Sale," which required more emotion than Curtin's rather pristine delivery managed to project at times. Those songs, however, were in the minority.
For most of the evening, Curtin made Porter's songbook seem even more elegant than it is. Her shimmering bravado, sharp sense of dynamics and rhapsodic flair enriched numerous standards as well as such neglected gems as "Use Your Imagination," "I Like Pretty Things" and "Where Oh Where."
What's more, Curtin couldn't have asked for two more classy and compatible accompanists than the veteran jazz duo of pianist Dwike Mitchell and bassist Willie Ruff. Their spare yet romantic lyricism, laced with just a touch of the blues, provided Curtin with all the support she needed. The performance will be repeated tonight.