Waterford Music had another very accomplished concert with Bridget Knowles, mezzo soprano and on piano, Beibhinn Ni Mheara. Mostly Ni Mheara played the role of accompanist and didn’t have een one solo piece.
Bridget Knowles is a class act and she delivered a wide ranging and expressive set of songs that impressed at different levels. Opening with three Baroque operatic arias, Knowles showed a fine dramatic range with some Pergolesi and a beautiful Cherubini aria. Such was her force and command of these obscure pieces. I couldn’t help but wonder why Bridget Knowles has never been a soloist at Wexford Opera.
Her selection from Schumann showed her award winning Lieder style with mournful love tunes and a powerful emotional Waldegesprach from Liederkrevs. Linking this passionate piece to a hauntingly Moonlit Night was beautiful.
An almost modern choice from Poulenc gave Ni Mheara a chance to shine in these almost folktales and children’s fairytale songs. A dramatic tone was great in the adventure of the flea pulling a little elephant in a carriage. An Ice Queen image was good and a nonsense song referred to Puss In Boots connecting to an Argento opera El Gato Con Botas in an Argento sequence in the second half of the evening.
I loved the Poulenc especially, The Musician Angels, with topical line – Upon the threads of the rain, the Thursday angels play… It was raining Giraffes and carafes outside as she sang.
After the interval a Handel selection was world-class especially the memorable Where E-er You Walk and an explosive Where Shall I Fly.
Again, the well-thought-out programme made sense as she featured some of Argento’s American version of Six Elizabethan Songs as a contrast to some first half Copeland, especially the authentic We Shall Cather At The River. Copeland wanted to use American folksongs rather than English or European, much like a contemporary Pulitzer winner, Carl Sandburg who wrote the children’s Rootabaga Stories as a reaction to European classics.
Argento won a Pulitzer for Music in 1975 for From The Diary Of Virginia Woolf. Argento also wrote for his late soprano wife, Carolyn Bailey and I felt that Bridget Knowles caught this connectivity so well.
She finished on the Catalan composer, Montsalvatge’s Cinco Canciones Negras that Monserrat Caballe made famous. A lullaby has the memorable line – el mandingo blanco te puede comer (the white bogey man is coming to eat you up). Another twist on a folktale…