Bryn Terfel at the Schubert Club

On April 23rd, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel performed at the Ordway.  This was the only vocal recital I saw this year at the Schubert Club and it was quite enjoyable.

Early on it became clear that Terfel is a good performer, not just his great singing, but also his comfort with the audience, his stage presence.  I have seen singers with orchestras that just stand and sing, but have no real stage personality, Terfel is not one of those singers.  Probably the best example was a few years ago when the Baldwin sisters (Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden) were on stage with the Minnesota Orchestra with two male singers for the Mozart Opera concert of the Casual Classics series.  The two guys just stood in their tuxes and sang, while the Baldwin sisters demonstrated great stage craft, the best was looking through the open frame like they were looking through a mirror.

Reading the text of the songs, especially of English language songs, it seemed that a few times either Terfel or the text was a bit off since they didn’t quite match a couple of times.

During the last set of songs, Songs of the Celtic Isles, Terfel solicited some audience participation for the last two songs.  For Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night) he had the audience humming with the music.  For the last song, Molly Malone, he had the audience singing with the chorus part.  At first we were pathetic and he stopped and had us stand to sing better.  The audience clearly enjoyed it, I think it is a sneaky (but fun) way to ensure a standing ovation, which he would have receive anyway.  The other strange thing with the Celtic Isles is that he skipped Cariad Cyntaf (First Love).

For an encore, he sang a nice song, can’t remember the name.  I don’t know if this was a true mistake, or part of the fun that we were lead to with the audience participation, but pianist Malcolm Martineau had the wrong music when Terfel announced the piece from the stage.  I am guessing it was planned, as Terfel went up to the piano while Martineau was off stage getting the right music and played a few notes of the music he had brought out originally and nodding it was the wrong music.  During the encore, Terfel hopped off stage and sung to women in the audience, holding hands, kissing hands, and playing footsie.  Once again showing his skills as a performer, and with his ability to get back on stage his skills at moving quickly.

It was a great performance and a nice end to the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series for the season.

-Josh

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