Sunday, July 18, 2004

Bryn Terfel

Last Tuesday, Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel gave a recital in Ozawa Hall with Malcolm Martineau on piano. Bryn (yes, we're on first name basis) is a big star, so the house was sold out. Seats had been set up on the stage, in a half circle behind the piano. (Fellows are usually seated in empty seats for concerts here; the house managers planned ahead, though, since they knew there would be no empty seats.) At first I was disappointed; who wants to sit behind a superstar while they sing? Well, it was a lesson in great performing. Bryn and Malcom were aware of the audience being all around them, and reacted accordingly. At several points, Bryn turned his back to the front of the house, placed his hand on the semi-closed lid of the piano, and sang right to us. It was almost like an old fashioned "salon" style performance. Intimate, personal, inspiring.

Another advantage of being so close to him, even though we were behind (it was actually more like a 3/4 view), was that we could really see how he sings. How he uses his breath, his body, his face, to communicate the texts and music. We heard every word of his almost entirely English-language program. Phylis, our voice teacher here, would have been proud!

Then last night he gave the opposite of an intimate voice and piano recital - a performance of excerpts from Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürmberg with the BSO at the Shed for an audience of 20,000 people. But, through the magic of being a Tanglewood Fellow, I found myself on the second row. This time I was able to fully appreciate the enormity of his voice, as well as study the way he handled the concert. How was it the same in his eyes? How was it different? I was equally moved by both his performances, with the same question coming to mind both nights - Do I have what I takes to do that?

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