incident light

Laura Claycomb, soprano

Agility to spare in 'Amor,' and more

October 1, 2012

Based on her printed program, the Sept. 30 recital by lyric coloratura soprano Laura Claycomb promised a seemingly conventional agenda of largely European art songs. The composers were familiar, but many of their selections were not especially well known.

The soprano is known for her engaging stage presence as both an operatic actress and a recitalist. During her recital at Coker United Methodist Church, she offered spoken program notes or personal anecdotes about her songs with a relaxed, down-home demeanor. She proved to her enthusiastic audience that she, along with soprano Renée Fleming, baritone Thomas Hampson and others, is helping to reinvigorate the vocal recital.

Thus, the audience was treated to fare ranging from three authentically Iberian flavored scores by Joaquin Turina, to an especially evocative Francis Poulenc song cycle, to a Richard Strauss set in which Ms. Claycomb revealed a seemingly endless array of color, nuance and interpretive wares. Her excellent, wholly simpatico collaborator was Houston-based pianist /organist Keith Weber.

The voice is copper-toned, warm in the mid-to-low registers and gleaming in the upper ones, but with more heft than most coloraturas. There is agility to spare, pinpoint accuracy of pitch, virtually flawless diction and commanding dynamic control.

These qualities shone best in Poulenc’s mood-swinging six-part “Fiancailles pour rire,” set to the poetry of Louise de Vilmorin, whose writings Poulenc admired for their “sensitive impertinence.” Indeed, “L’Herbe,” about a youth who committed suicide, was spider-web delicate and haunting, while the lying, stealing lover of “Il vole” was a free-wheeling mad dash. The text to “Violon” is strange and nearly incomprehensible; Ms Claycomb covered that nicely by draping herself within the curve of the piano and appearing deliciously tipsy.

Five of the six Brentano Lieder, Op. 68 by Richard Strauss closed the program. Deeply romantic poetry in all its guises, Strauss scored the songs accordingly and Ms. Claycomb chameleoned her tone and interpretation to match. “An die Nacht” is big and dramatic, while “Saeusle liebe Myrtle” glistens with playfulness and “Al mir dein Lied erklang” is wonderfully bold and burly.

And then there was the cycle’s concluding “Amor,” providing the soprano’s only real coloratura opportunities: pearlescent roulades, glittering trills and colors ranging from evanescent to quasi-edgy.

The welcome encores were Doretta’s aria, “Chi il bel sogno” from Puccini’s “La Rondine,” and a beautifully controlled Franz Lehar aria, "Einer wird kommen," from "Der Zarewitsch."

Ms. Claycomb is a Texas native (born in Corpus Christi, reared and schooled in Dallas) who was recently given the Dallas Opera Maria Callas Debut Artist Award for her role last season as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and is in the midst of a two-week tour of Texas. She makes her home in Turin, Italy.

Diane Windeler