“On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.
Performance Santa Fe presents recitals by artists in town to perform at Santa Fe Opera. The Scottish Rite Center is a Masonic temple built in 1912 containing an intimate theater. It houses a fully outfitted stage with a painted back drop and scrims created with the kind of fine workmanship seldom seen in today’s theatrical settings. On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of this setting, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America.
Wearing a dress with a black top and a red and black printed skirt, Meade and the black-clad Illick began their program with an emotion-filled rendition of the aria “Io son l’umile ancella” (“I am the humble servant”) from Francesco Cilea’s infrequently performed opera Adriana Lecouvreur. It showed Meade’s ability to immediately grasp the psyche of her audience in her capable hands.
They continued with three of the five songs Franz Liszt composed in the early eighteen forties to texts by Victor Hugo: Enfant, si j’étais roi (Child, if I were King), Oh, Quand je dors (Oh! When I sleep), and Comment, disaient ils (How, they asked). In the first song Meade sang a magnificent messa di voce, swelling to a fortissimo and diminishing to the finest thread of sound. A quick look at the text of Quand je dors tells the reader that it’s about dreaming of a lover. Meade and Illick’s opulent tones soon made the meaning clear. In Comment disaient ils Meade and Illick again showed the smoothness of their combined, well-nurtured lyricism. The soprano also demonstrated a full range of dynamics and the perfect trill we heard in Norma.
Vincenzo Bellini, the composer of Norma, wrote songs such as the familiar, melodic Vaga Luna and the less well-known but equally interesting Ma rendi pur contento. Neither song is “Casta Diva”, but Meade sang both with gorgeous tone and saved her golden age operatic ability for the next aria: “Pace, pace mio dio” from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. Forza is no longer in the usual repertoire because big juicy voices like that of Zinka Milanov are hard to come by. A major opera company needs to revive Forza for Meade because she sings that aria magnificently and international audiences should be able to hear her perform it with orchestra.
Meade’s singing of Marietta’s bittersweet “Glück das mir verblieb” (“Joy that remains with me”) from Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s 1920 opera Die Tote Stadt left listeners contemplating the lost loves of their own lives as the artists left the stage. Illick and Meade returned to render thoughtful interpretations of three well-known songs by Richard Strauss: Zueignung and Allerseelen from Op 10, and Cäcilie from Op. 27.
For their finale, the artists performed “Ebben? Ne andro lontana” (“Well, then? I’ll go father away”) from Alfredo Catalani’s 1892 Alpine opera that ends in an avalanche, La Wally. Actually, Catalani had written the aria as a separate work but added it to the opera before its premiere. Maria Callas made the aria famous with her recording, but Meade’s rendition showed what a more voluminous voice could do for this piece. At its end she was greeted with a huge wave of applause. When we listen to Meade, we begin to know the sound of golden age singing.”
– Opera Today, Maria Nockin