Diana Damrau’s diva power could have filled at least ten times the size of Boğaziçi University’s Albert Long Hall, where her Istanbul Music Festival performance with harpist Xavier de Maistre was held.
But it was actually the softer intimate sounds that one strained to hear even in the relatively small performance space that were perhaps the most exquisite.
The program included five Schubert songs, including Ave Maria Op. 52, No.6, D 839, six Strauss Lieder, and songs by Reynaldo Hahn, Ernest Chausson, Henri Duparc and Eva Dell’Acqua. Two harp solos, quite distinct—Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alahambra arranged by de Maistre and Felix Godefroid’s Carnaval de Venise, Op. 184—showcased both the range of the harp and de Xavier’s musical mastery of the instrument.
There was strong chemistry at work in the performance—between the two musicians and with the audience. In a lovely flowing diaphanous gown, Damrau seemed to cover every emotion on the human map as she sang. This English speaker had no problem grasping the various Lieder meanings though the program translations were only in Turkish, as Damrau at one moment seemed to be inviting to a joyful party and then the next lingering in a sad solitude.
When her coloratura range sprang into full force with Olympic-scale range during the closing Dell’Acqua finale, de Maistre leaned back with his harp beaming at Damrau seeming to express the admiration all in the audience were feeling. Clearly she is one of the most gifted coloratura sopranos of our time, as you can see in her rendition of the mad scene in Lucia di Lammermoor—
Watching De Maistre perform is a good deal of the treat of his live performance.
He rocked his Lyon and Healy harp back and forth with an intimacy suggesting it was his extra magical limb. He seems as transported in the harp's versatility as we were, as you can see in this earlier YouTube recording of him performing his arrangement of Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
The Istanbul Music Festival for this year is now concluded. For those considering a tour of Turkey or a visit to Itanbul it's highly recommended to try to time your trip to catch some of this yearly festival. You can keep up with announcements on the 2015 festival on the Istanbul Music Festival Website.