Dallas — Blue Candlelight Music Series’ final program of the 2017-2018 season was a treat for lovers of opera.
Usually, the Blue Candlelight concerts are instrumental chamber music performances, with a special emphasis on piano. This year’s series of elegant house party concerts at the gracious Preston Hollow residence of arts patrons Richard and Enika Schulze ended with a recital by Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan and Iranian pianist Sahar Nouri.
Galoyan has a voice that could easily fill a large concert hall—it was sometimes overwhelming in a large living room. But that’s a small quibble about what was otherwise a stunning performance. Galoyan and Nouri began with Ravel’s Schèhèrazade, a trio of songs invoking the famous Persian hero. Galoyan’s appearance may be youthful, but her voice is a mature one. She is comfortable throughout her range. Nouri, likewise, knows when to push the volume a bit and when to stay out of the singer’s way.
In the second work on the program, Rachmaninoff’s Six Songs, Op. 38, Galoyan showed her acting chops. She is capable of switching moods and personae at will, from the sweetly melancholic to the whimsical.
The second half of the program included a wide variety of shorter works, (mostly) with themes of nature and love. Alban Berg’s song “Die Nachtigal” (the Nightingale) might challenge any singer’s range, but Galoyan seems to be able to hit pretty much any note she wishes. From Richard Strauss’ Four Songs, Op. 27 came “Morgen” and “Cäcilie,” both gorgeous love songs that showed both musicians’ capable phrasing and variety of textures and colors.
Edvard Mirzoyan’s “I Saw a Dream” paid homage to Galoyan’s Armenian heritage, and she displayed her linguistic facility by singing Dvořák’s “Song to the Moon” from his opera Rusalka, which is in Czech. Nouri took the wheel with a piano arrangement of Mascagni’s famous Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana. Without the textures of the orchestra, the arrangement seemed a bit thin, but Nouri’s playing was sensitive and warm.
The duo closed out the evening with “Sempre libera” from Verdi’s La Traviata, as well as an encore of an Armenian lullaby. So, if you’re counting: that’s French, Russian, German, Armenian, Czech, and Italian, all in one concert: quite a linguistic feat as well as a musical one.
The program began with a “Young Starlights” mini recital by Erica Simmons. Usually, the performers on these pre-concert recitals are children, but singers mature later than instrumentalists. So it’s appropriate that this concert featured Simmons, a graduate student at the University of North Texas. While her voice still seems to be developing in its upper register, resulting in some pitch issues, her sound was voluptuous and the overall effect delightful on a diverse selection of arias including Chaminade’s “Viens mon bien-aimé,” Mozart’s “Dove sono” from The Marriage of Figaro, Gershwin’s iconic “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, and Finzi’s “As I Lay in the Early Sun.”