Martha Senn, who is Colombia's gift to the Washington Opera's "Carmen," showed a few more facets of her talent and also some of her current limitations in recital last evening at the Inter-American Development Bank. Her encore was the "Seguedilla" from Carmen--a token of why she is unexpectedly in Washington this month. It was not quite as effective -- she was out of costume and accompanied by a piano rather than an orchestra -- but it was still enchanting.
Otherwise, she showed great strength in French repertoire: opera by Massenet, and songs by Faure'. Her style was superb in the seldom-heard Colombian songs of Jaime Leo n and the Spanish folk songs, collected and arranged by Garcia Lorca, both of which occupied the second half of her program.
Hers is still a young voice that has yet to reach its full potential -- or, as was shown in occasional wrong notes, to come completely under her control. But it is strong in both its upper and lower registers, and she uses it with the skills of a natural born actress. She was most effective, perhaps, in the material that requires acting as well as singing skills: the letter aria from Massenet's "Werther," and "Cruda Sorte" from "L'Italiana in Algeri," which received a virtuoso performance with dazzling coloratura.
Elsewhere, in specialized repertoire, she showed what can be done by beautiful singing without a deep sense of a particular style. An aria by Monteverdi was declaimed and sung with real feeling, lovely tone and an exquisitely baroque final cadence, but left a feeling that the style of that composer had not been thoroughly explored. Two songs from Schumann's "Frauenliebe Und Leben" were very prettily performed, but without the special shading of tones and pointing of words and phrases that are the essence of the Lieder singer's art, they sounded rather like folk music.
One would like to hear more of her Rossini and to sample what she can do with Mozart.