Morphology of Desire

To Mazzoleni Hall yesterday to hear Christina Campsall’s graduating recital.  I think over the course of the year she has become my “top tip” for this year’s graduating class at the Conservatory and nothing that happened yesterday did anything to shake that judgement. It was a pretty intense program that was definitely more shade than light but that, I think, rather suits her voice.  The opening set, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, was a case in point.  Dark, brooding texts, dark, brooding music and a dark, brooding voice with plenty of power.  We have a mezzo here not a second soprano!  That said, her high notes are all there and there seems to be plenty of power all through the registers, though to be fait I’ve only seen her once in a large hall and that was in operetta.  Very good German too with a distinct northern inflection.  All the consonants!


The intensity continued with three selections from Srul Irving Glick’s Seven Tableaux fron the Song of Songs where Christina and pianist Brahm Goldhamer were joined by violoinist Madlen Breckbill and cellist Amahl Arulanandam..  This is also intense, at times ecstatic, music and it got full measure.  These are English texts and no crib sheet was given or required.  Very good stuff indeed.

After the interval the bar was raised yet again with Messiaen’s deeply personal, and very difficult, Poèmes pour Mi, which deal with issues of love and spirituality and are notable for their extremely complex rhythmic patterns.  They were expertly navigated, again with careful attention to the text.  It did get a bit lighter after that with three selections from Montsavatge’s Cinco canciones negras.  The last, Canto negro, allowing an opportunity for Christina to show off a bit of agility and humour.  Then rounding out the program were a couple of American Songbook numbers arranged for piano and violin by Peter Tiefenbach; Rodgers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine and Cole Porter’s I LoveYou.  I’m not entirely sure that Christina’s voice is ideally suited for this material but she sang them very nicely.

So, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I love Christina’s voice and I admire her artistry and musicianship.  She’s very well suited to dark, dramatic roles as she showed in the recent The Rape of Lucretia but she can also do comedy.  She was the best thing in the Conservatory’s La Belle Hélène.  That said, I wonder where she fits in this world where the opera companies seem to want young singers with bright, pretty voices who slot into bit roles (and retire at 30).  Where does a mezzo who is more Kundry than Cherubino fit?  I hope someone fugures that out because I want to hear this voice again.

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