In 1997, we had the privilege of seeing Dawn Upshaw in recital.
At that time, her program featured contemporary music,
including a work by composer George Crumb (1929 – ).
For a number of reasons, “Voices of Our Time: Dawn Upshaw”
is an ideal song recital on DVD, not the least of which are her
personal associations with some of the composers
represented herein. These include John Harbison (1938 – ) and
Kaija Saariaho (1952 – ), both of whom have had works
premiered by Mme. Upshaw (1960 – ). Taped in January 2000 at
the Théâtre du Châtelet, it also featured the work of accompanist
Gilbert Kalish (1935 – ), who had spent much of his distinguished
career collaborating with mezzo-soprano Jan De Gaetani
(1933-1989), primarily in contemporary American repertoire.
They worked together for approximately 30 years. The
aforementioned George Crumb wrote “The Sleeper,” for
Mme. De Gaetani and Mr. Kalish in 1984. Dawn Upshaw studied
with Mme. De Gaetani, and there should be no doubt that her
recital performance of the work was inspired by its history.
This excellent, 90-minute recital is a prime example of
Mme. Upshaw’s advocacy of contemporary song and opera
repertoire. The songs were interspersed with interviews, wherein
she discussed the music. Her voice was crystal clear throughout,
and although she has been associated with “soubrette” operatic
roles, she exhibited a rich lower range and seamless transitions
between vocal registers. She couldn’t have found a better
partner than Mr. Kalish, and their program also included works
by William Bolcom (1938 – ), Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953),
the stepmother to Folk singer Pete Seeger,
Laura Elise Schwendinger (1962 – ), Osvaldo Golijov (1960 – ),
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) and Charles Ives (1874-1954).
Talk about an interesting mix of composers! This was a
stimulating and wonderfully executed program.
In addition to the aforementioned onstage collaboration,
a quadrophonic tape accompaniment was used for
Kaija Saariaho’s 17-minute piece, “Lark.” This work was sort
of a precursor to Mme. Saariaho’s opera, “L’Amour de Loin.”
It also featured an effective performance by Mme. Upshaw.
This RM Associates – TDK release was well recorded and
filmed with subtitle options, and deserves top marks.