High Expectations

Janos Gereben on April 24, 2007
During her recent Merola and Adler years, Melody Moore developed a reputation and an avid fan base. Her operatic and song cycle performances well earned her both. High esteem and fans followed her on Sunday into the Martin Meyer Sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El and she received an ovation as she first appeared. Thunderous applause followed her at every turn, downright deafening after a knockout encore, "Feeling Good," from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd. In the minuscule minority was this early member of Moore's fan phalanx, who sat through the first half of the concert, wondering why it was not going better. But after intermission, fortunately, the applause became unanimous. Even from a critical point of view, the beginning of the recital wasn't bad, just not up to Moore's usual standard. The voice, as always, was lovely. She used the problematic hall better than any other singer I have heard there, projecting just enough, without the excessive volume used by other performers in the venue — even though she could outsing any one of them. But through the opening four Mozart songs, Moore didn't quite get into the music, and she failed to produce her usual, well-centered voice.

Mozart Without the Magic

Als Luisa die Briefe, (When Louise burned the letters, K. 520) was more dramatic/heroic than the text and music justified. The tempo of Dans un bois solitaire (In a lonely wood, K. 308) was both too fast and out of sync with Mark Morash's dominating piano. Ridente la calma (May smiling calm, K. 152) fared better musically, but the Italian diction came close to being incomprehensible (in contrast with Moore's excellent German, and fair-to-middling French). The final song in the set, Die Zauberer (The sorcerer, K. 472), provided Moore with the opportunity to show off her charm and sense of humor, but the magic was still missing from the music. Schubert fared better, but Morash (who served as an excellent partner in the second half, while acting as an amusing emcee) still tended to step on the vocal line, and Moore, in the otherwise fine Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the spinning wheel, D. 118), showed some strain toward the end of the song. An den Mond (To the moon, D. 259) was unexceptional, and the two Suleika songs (D. 720 and 717) still seemed to come from the "edge" of the voice, not the center. The last set, Poulenc's songs to texts by Apollinaire — Banalités (Banalities): "Chansons d'Orkenise" (Song of Orkenise), "Hotel," "Fanges de Wallonie" (Walloon moorlands),"Voyage à Paris" (Trip to Paris), and "Sanglots" (Sobbing) — were interesting and well-performed, especially when the song involved a dialogue, but the real Moore didn't show up until after the intermission.

Dohnányi Hits the Spot

Ernst von Dohnányi's lieder are infrequently performed, although not quite to the extent Morash suggested in remarking that nobody in the audience might have heard of them. You need only to check Emily Ezust's listing for proof to the contrary. At any rate, the popularity of these songs should pick up quickly if they are performed as well as the song cycle, Im Lebenslenz (In the springtime of life, Op. 16), was in the Moore-Morash partnership. They conveyed the poetic passion of “Fernes klingen” (Faraway sounds) and " Du, silbernes Mondenlicht" (You, silvery moonlight). Moore got to the heart of Wilhelm Conrad Gomoll's inspired poem, "Im Traum" ("As lightly as the swans glide on the dark waters / Do I want to step into your dreams, / And may they be good to me / Where deep red roses glow in quiet gardens"), and she sang the concluding "Serenade" exquisitely. Dorothy Parker's texts provided fine fodder for the comedic part of Moore's arsenal in "Social note," "Résumé," and "The sea," poems selected by John Musto for his song cycle, Enough Rope. But his settings were not much more than background music. Edith Sitwell, on the other hand, found an equal partner in William Walton, in his breakthrough work, Facade (1921-27). Moore sang Three Songs, composed in 1932, and based on the Facade music (which features a reciter rather than a singer). The gorgeous fairy tale of "Daphne" introduced the group, and Moore shone again in her deadpan delivery of "Old Sir Faulk." Morash was excellent, especially in the Spanish-accented syncopation of "Through gilded trellises."

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