This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
Moon Loves Its Light is a debut disk by Nova Scotia soprano Allison Angelo accompanied by Australian pianist Simon Docking. It’s a mix of Canadian settings of English language texts; Harry Somers’ Three Songs to texts by Walt Whitman and Lloyd Burritt’s settings of texts from Marilyn Lerch’s Moon Loves Its Light supplemented by individual songs by Ian Bent, Oskar Morawetz and Patrick Cardy, plus songs by Debussy, Hahn, Fauré and Poulenc. Curiously, the two sets; are split up to fit the disk’s division into four sets; Moon, Night, Dreams and Moon.
The Somers songs have been recorded before, notably by Jon Vickers. They really are quite interesting and worth listening to as a set. Within a fairly conventional tonal framework they manage to sound almost sinister with a complex piano line that dialogues with, rather than supporting, the singer. The performances here are sensitive and refined and, I imagine, not at all like Jon Vickers.
As far as I can tell, this is the only available recording of the Burritt pieces. They too are worth listening to consecutively. Perhaps not as original as the Somers with a rather predictable piano line they are not without interest, especially The Giant Lily of the Amazon. Here the composer and singer manage to create a real sense of decadence and decay that is quite appealing. Ms. Angelo also copes very well with the cruelly high setting of Your Voice Enters My Dreams.
The remaining Canadian pieces are fairly inoffensive, inhabiting that space that’s just about art song with strong hints of something more demotic and are not out of character with the romantic French songs. Canadian and French pieces alike suit Ms. Angelo’s bright, pleasant voice and the accompaniments are accomplished. Ms. Angelo’s diction, in both English and French, is excellent which is the more welcome as no texts are supplied with the disk, (translations of the French pieces can be found on her web site).
I’m sure as a touring recital program this would work pretty well but on CD one can’t help wishing for more musical and dramatic contrast. The recording, made in Amherst’s Trinity-St. Stephen’s United Church is extremely well engineered; rich toned and clean.