American-born, American-educated singers are in demand the world over nowadays, precisely for the refined traits that tenor Gregory Turay brought to his Vocal Arts Society recital Monday at the French Embassy.
Turay, 26, has made phenomenal strides. He discovered he had a real voice only in college, then three years ago won a Young Concert Artists audition. On Saturday he sang the role of Arturo in the Metropolitan Opera's radio broadcast of "Lucia di Lammermoor." In between he has sung all over, including Wolf Trap and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
Of Turay's many strengths heard Monday, his flexibility and clean projection were most striking. He sounded idiomatically English for songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Ireland--crisp, prim and a bit prissy. His controlled vibrato and his skill in drawing out long, lush diminuendos were reminiscent for a moment of one of the most engaging British singers of recent times, Janet Baker.
Throughout the evening it was apparent he's been properly educated, American style, in a singer's basics: posture and breath control, careful diction no matter the language and tasteful phrasing. His singing is well groomed, fit and healthy. His programming was smart, too. Songs by Edvard Grieg and Reynaldo Hahn lay in the best part of his voice, in a region where his tone is soft on the listener's ear, warm and inviting. And in Hahn's "A Chloris" his pianist, Cliff Jackson, best showed his supple, sensitive accompaniment.
Yet where Turay had to open his voice, singing high notes with intensity and at high volume--as in Schumann's "Er Ist's," for the line "Fruhling, ja du bist's" ("Yes, spring, it is you")--a drop of vinegar enters his tone. This slight bitterness makes his sound identifiably his.
Ringing, loud top notes are where big-money tenors excel. But it seems to be the weak point in Turay's arsenal. There were a few promising exceptions: In Rachmaninoff's "How Fair This Spot," which he sang in Russian, the last line is "Da ti, mechta moya" ("And you, my dream"). He sang the first "ah" syllable cleanly, with almost no vibrato, and it was lovely. Still, light, bright-toned tenors are rare, and Turay has the makings of an extraordinary career.