There are some singers who sound great in opera productions. And there are also singers who excel in Lieder. But, unfortunately, there aren’t very many who are masters of both genres.
Is Elliot Madore one of these rare creatures?
On Thursday evening, when Music Toronto presented baritone Elliot Madore at the Jane Mallet Theatre, vocal enthusiasts had the opportunity to hear how the native Torontonian sounds in a song recital. For the occasion, he and pianist Rachel Andrist prepared Schumann’s Liederkreis, Poulenc’s Banlités and five songs by Charles Ives.
To be sure, his recital revealed him to be an uncommonly gifted artist. Madore possesses a rich and resonant voice, as well as clear and strong delivery. A lyrical legato is his strong suit, which gives his phrases a seamless and fluid quality.
His approach to Schumann was sentimental (and I mean that in a good way), delivered with heart-on-sleeve emotion. Moreover, he brought a fresh, convincing approach to each of the dozen songs in the cycle. “Mondnacht” was sweet and tender. “Auf Einer Burg” was dark and solemn. And I especially enjoyed his dramatic rendition of “In Der Fremde.”
As well, Madore’s performance of the Liederkreis cycle offered an answer, to the question posed near the top of this review. Madore is a genuine, bone fide Lieder singer – when he wants to be.
There were times when he was entirely in the “art-song zone.” But there were also times when his performance seemed too much informed (or, rather, misinformed) by his already substantial experience as an opera singer.
In “Wehmut,” “Zweilicht” and “Frühlingsnacht,” he displayed a penchant for over-singing – producing a big, “impressive” sound, as though he were accompanied by an orchestra instead of a piano. And in “Waldesgespräch” he encountered technical problems in his upper register that a lighter approach might have alleviated.
This tendency sometimes reared its head in the Poulenc, as well. The “Chanson d’Orkensise” and “Fagnes de Wallonie” both had a harsh and aggressive edge. However, there was pleasantly relaxed and languid quality to “Hôtel,” and a clever charm to the little “Voyage à Paris.” “Sanglots” received a heartfelt performance, ending with a hint of mystery.
The Ives songs were a mixed bag. And here, Madore rose to the occasion by embracing the composer’s eclectic style. “The Circus Band” was sung with Yankee directness, whereas “Ich grolle nicht” was treated like the serious German Lied it (almost) is. He had fun with the silly little waltz-song “The Side Show,” and more fun with “Memories A. Very Pleasant.” The Ives set ended with “B. Rather Sad,” sung with a delicate sotto voce – a nice touch that showed how effectively less can be more.
At several points in the recital, Madore spoke from the stage about his selections – and when he did so, it was evident that, despite his international success, he’s still a “regular guy” from Etobicoke. There’s nothing wrong with that – on the contrary, there’s something kind of reassuring about it.
It was also evident, from the enthusiastic response of the audience, that many friends and family were in attendance. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
© Colin Eatock 2015