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Review: IU alumna’s visit shows how much she has accomplished

Posted 4 months ago by

A talented mezzo: Her name is Angela Brower. Arizona-born and Indiana University-trained, this effervescent mezzo-soprano returned to sing a challenging recital of songs on Thursday evening, with Kevin Murphy, the IU Jacobs School’s knowledgeable director of coaching, collaborating at the Steinway. The challenge seemed not to have taxed her at all.

Brower has garnered a long list of credits since her IU days. Since 2010, she has been a member of the ensemble at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, to whom the leadership has assigned operas of Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Massenet, Offenbach, Humperdinck and Richard Strauss. She has sung widely with orchestras and also become a favored recitalist.

On Thursday evening, Brower covered quite a chunk of territory in several languages: songs of Brahms, Faure, Reynaldo Hahn, Poulenc, Copland, Dvorak and Lehar, plus a Mozart aria as an encore. She required no warmup but tore right into eight of Brahms’ “Zigeunerlieder” (“Gypsy songs”), spirited music originally composed for a quartet of voices, then rearranged for solo voice. The songs are all about love and call for zest and charm, which Brower generously provided. Immediately, one discovered that here was a singer not satisfied simply to stand stoically next to the piano and do her recital duties. Her face, her body, her musical soul offered a fever of excitement that heightened one’s involvement as listener.

An elegance of style and diction was required for a quintet of songs by Gabriel Faure (“Mandoline” and “Les berceaux”), Reynaldo Hahn (“Fetes galantes” and “A Chloris”), and Francis Poulenc (“Les Chemins de l’amour”). Most, again, dealing with aspects of love, they again received from Brower sensitivity to both subject and French subtleties built individualistically by each composer into his songs.

How different the directness of approach required by Aaron Copland in his folk music-inspired “Old American Songs,” from which Brower wisely chose the familiar and reflective “At the River,” “Simple Gifts,” “Long Time Ago” and “The Little Horses.” These are songs not to be fussed with but to be sung with directness and honesty. And that Angela Brewer did.

Her understanding of the folk spirit also enriched the performance of four songs from Antonin Dvorak’s “Zigeunermelodien” and a lilting aria from Franz Lehar’s operetta, “Zigeunerliebe,” liltingly sung. For an encore, the recitalist added some Mozart, Cherubino’s popular aria “Voi che sapete” from “The Marriage of Figaro,” proving that Mozart, too, is in her artistic genes.

Peter Jacobi – Herald-Times Online