Donnie Ray Albert, who is built like a linebacker but who sings with the finesse of a fencer, has made a name for himself on the opera stage as one of the more versatile basses in the business. He was here a couple of weeks ago in Handel's opera "Alessandro" and made a magnificent impression several years ago when he appeared locally as Porgy in the Houston Opera's production of "Porgy and Bess."
Thursday night his recital at the Barns of Wolf Trap was sparsely attended but well received. His program included arias by Handel, Mozart and Verdi, three songs by Strauss, a fine selection by American black composers and a group of spirituals.
Albert lavished the full opulence of his voice on the romanticism of the Strauss, treating these worldly songs with the sort of rich, seamless singing that has its focus on vocal production.
But he brought the full range of his vocal and emotional expressiveness to the songs by black composers. In this set he dared to sing softly. "Ethiopia Saluting the Colours" by Wood was a masterpiece of concentration and introspection. For the long note that leads to the conclusion of Swanson's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," Albert molded a whole world of expressive colors that made one wish that the note would go on forever. William Huckaby accompanied brilliantly. His Strauss was beautifully articulated and the gorgeous legato melody that supported Albert's stunning "Fix Me, Jesus" put the finishing touches on a powerful experience.