French evening for the debut of the mezzo Isabel Leonard on the stage of the Teatro Colón

The American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, faithful interpreter of the MET, as well as the Canadian conductor Julian Kuerti, are the guests of the 3rd concert of the year of the permanent orchestra of the Teatro Colón, for a program dedicated to French music with Berlioz and Ravel:

La Orquesta estable from the Teatro Colón, usually accompanying the house’s opera productions (and to be distinguished from theBuenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra which sits within the same walls) performs in concert by and for itself on the occasion of an evening which sees singer Isabel Leonard and conductor Julian Kuerti perform The summer nights by Berlioz as well as two pieces by Ravel: the Spanish rhapsody and Scheherazade.

Isabel Leonard (© Prensa Teatro Colon / Arnaldo Colombaroli)

Like in family

The emotion of the mezzo Isabel Leonard is palpable on the occasion of her debut on the Colón stage, and for good reason: the roots of this American singer are found in the place where she is and the program she performs part of his personal history and his genealogy which is the very history of American migrations. Coming from distant French ancestry having crossed the Atlantic, Isabel Leonard reminds her audience, who have come in large numbers to listen to her, by speaking with tearful eyes and in a Spanish marked with the particularities of the Rio de la Plata which separates Argentina from Uruguay, that his mother is indeed Argentinian and that part of the audience came from Santiago del Estero, in the north of the country, the city and province of his family origins. It is through the French language and two French composers that this return to family sources takes place. The first part of the concert takes place under the romantic sign of summer nights by Berlioz (1841), while the second projects itself towards Ravel and the 20th century through an instrumental piece, Spanish rhapsody (1907), and the three melodies forming Scheherazade composed in 1899. The constitution of this program raises questions, since The summer nights were performed recently on this same stage (in July 2019), moreover already associated at the time with a composition by Ravel (My mother the goose). Ôlyrix had reported on the interpretation of mezzo Tara Erraught and conductor Manuel Hernández-Silva at the head, for once, of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires. The program of this new French evening, beyond the country that unites it, finds its coherence through the person who interprets it, the characteristics of her voice lending themselves particularly to the execution of this French aesthetic diversity.

Isabel Leonard (© Prensa Teatro Colon / Arnaldo Colombaroli)

The diaphanous voice of mysteries and uncertainties

From the start, Isabel Leonard’s angelic smile accompanies the vocal inflections with great clarity. If the voice of the mezzo can be strong without too much breathing effort (the breath is long), it is especially noticed by its clear, high and azure lines evoking the evanescent mysteries of human existence. The vibrato, silky and precious, nourishes the elegance of the lines and the stylistic forms deployed in the phrasing and the accents, in particular on the expression of nostalgia. If spectral swirls fill the vocal space, movements of the glottis (while the singer is silent) are repeated and undoubtedly betray discomfort in the throat, without this altering her abilities. voice. Deliberately or not (taking into account these possible inconveniences), the voice seems a little darker for its return, on the occasion of the three melodies of Scheherazade. The refinement of the ornamentations, which reflect here with relevance and finesse the oriental exoticism, remains present, however, while the power of certain projections does not seem in any way obliterated. Isabel Leonard’s French pronunciation testifies to an acute knowledge of our language and its vocal subtleties in particular, which makes her an ambassador of French singing on a stage which, when Molière’s language resonates there (this which is rather rare), is too often skinned and abused.

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Isabel Leonard (© Prensa Teatro Colon / Arnaldo Colombaroli)

The house orchestra responds greedily to the injunctions of conductor Julian Kuerti who, by the verticality of the movements of his arms and an arch sometimes worthy of a flamenco dancer or a toreador (but what could be more normal for the Spanish rhapsody or the cover of the “Habanera” in encore?), participates fully in the expression of the sensory exaltation sung by Isabel Leonard. The contrasts highlighted by attentive instrumentalists (luminosity of the brass, dark character of the strings and percussion) are placed with precision, reflecting an enveloping orchestral direction, sometimes caressing, sometimes more paternalistic, but always benevolent.

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Julian Kuerti (© Prensa Teatro Colon / Arnaldo Colombaroli)

Isabel Leonard, who knew how to play on the sensitive chord, and not only with the help of her own vocal cords, was given a standing ovation by an audience who recognized her as one of their own, taking with her success that of the orchestra and of its leader. Undoubtedly frustrated at having obtained only one encore, the public showed its enthusiasm with the warmth that characterizes it (and sometimes with excess since the six melodies of the summer nights have been interrupted by inappropriate applause). There is no doubt that he is grateful to the mezzo for having made this return to the family for the pleasure of all, while remaining uncertain about a possible new visit from the singer on the occasion of the future opera season.

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© Prensa Teatro Colon / Arnaldo Colombaroli

French evening for the debut of the mezzo Isabel Leonard on the stage of the Teatro Colón -…