Hungary’s six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union, its first since joining the EU, ends this month, when Poland will take over. To celebrate the event, the embassies of the two countries co-sponsored a pair of singers, one Hungarian and the other Polish, to perform at both embassies. The first of these concerts, under the auspices of the Embassy Series, was held at the Hungarian Embassy on Thursday night.

Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wór will perform as part of The Embassy Series' "Great Singers of Hungary and Poland" June 16 at the Embassy of Hungary. (Photo by Magdalena Moulson/Courtesy of The Embassy Series)

Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wór is already familiar from her years in Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist program. In the first half, devoted to Polish songs by Chopin and Feliks Rybicki, she showed the velvety side of her voice. As Wór has shown on the stage, she has a dramatic presence and expressive face, qualities that helped her bring across the meaning of the Polish texts she sang with such exquisite diction. The top of her voice strained slightly, the vibrato going a little wild, but the dry acoustic, something like that of a large living room, might have left her feeling exposed.

Tenor Szabolcs Brickner sounded best at full volume, his high notes ringing with a throaty squillo, while his head voice was oddly raspy and almost toneless. Only by the time we reached the excerpts from Bizet’s “Carmen” on the second half did one hear the heroic sound that won him first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Vocal Competition in 2008. The more subtle pieces, especially folk song arrangements by Bartók, were interesting musically but did not flatter Brickner’s voice as naturally.

By freelance writer Charles Downey.