Beyond the Aria Review – The Sweetness of Song

 

It’s difficult to imagine a venue more perfect for the Lyric and Harris Theater’s “Beyond the Aria” concert series than the Pritzker Pavilion stage.  With small tables on the floor where the orchestra usually sits and extra seating above where the chorus is usually stationed, it’s a relatively small gathering space.  The glass wall gives the room a sparkle.  Unlike a fully staged opera where singers combine and sometimes compete with a full orchestra, here there is simply a piano.  Nor is there an elaborate set. 

 

 

In this unadorned space one thing comes across very clearly – the sweetness of song.

 

There were three singers regaling our ears: 

 

 

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton;

 

 

Tenor Bryan Hymel;

 

 

and Baritone Anthony Clark Evans.  

 

 

Craig Terry, the artistic director and creator of this event who announced that the series will continue next year, accompanied on the piano.  His comfort level compared to the Beyond the Aria debut concert was palpable. 

 

Each of the performers had picked songs that are their favorites. 

 

 

Barton’s selections included: “Spring Waters” by Rachmaninoff; “Five Songs” by Sibelius;

 

 

“I’ll Fly Away” by Brumley;

 

 

and a show stealer comic song “The Alto’s Lament” by Goldrich.   

 

 

At one point with eyes sparkling she sat next to Terry on the piano bench to add her piano playing to the tune,

 

 

perking up all in the theater.

 

 

Hymel who had started off the evening with his warm tenor embrace of an aria from Massenet’s Jean the Baptiste

 

 

later sang another show stopper-- “A Tribute to Mario Lanza”, including “O Sole Mio”, “Because” and “Be My Love” that so enchanted it was difficult to not want to clap upon his first notes. 

 

 

Clark Evans opened with a delightful set of songs by Butterworth, a little-known composer whom he explained had been killed in WWI and who had destroyed many of his earlier musical manuscripts. 

 

 

Later, Clark Evans’ rendition of the “Soliloquy” from “Carousel”, a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical slated for a full Lyric staging this spring, exquisitely carried us through the many emotions of that one song.

 

 

All four performers are Southerners, and they ended with “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” to honor their roots.

 

To hear their songs, we were as entranced as a mate hearing its loving birdcall.  We bathed in one sweet song after another.  The cold winds outside were forgotten.  The craving for the next “Beyond the Aria” began with the last notes.

 

 Harris Theater offers a wide range of programming in music, dance and more throughout the year.

For information or tickets call

312.334.7777 or visit the Harris Theater Website.

 

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Photos:   Johnny Knight

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