Tuscon Desert Song Festival 2019 Review: Corinne Winters In Recital

By Maria Nockin

On Tuesday, January 22, the Tucson Desert Song Festival presented soprano Corinne Winters in recital at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

On entering, audience members were presented with no only a program listing the songs, but they also received printed copies of each song in both English and its original language. The lights were also kept high enough so that those who wanted to read the words could.
Nights of Summer

Accompanied by Laurent Philippe of English National Opera, Zurich Opera and other major houses, Winters opened the program with “Les nuits d’été” by Hector Berlioz. Wearing a low cut highly slit dark blue gown and enormous high heels, she was the complete diva as she began her traversal of Hector Berlioz’ apostrophe of warm nights. She sang, “when the new season comes the frosts will disappear,” and we realized its truth even though there had been snow on a local mountain a few days before. The words of these songs by Berlioz and Théophile Gautier are as true in the 21st century as they were in the 19th.

Her happy demeanor became more serious as she sang of the spectre or ghost of the rose. The flower we enjoy in a vase or in a corsage dies for our pleasure but we never mourn it. She sang a pure legato as her pianist played rippling waves of tone beneath her sound. I could almost inhale the aroma of the flower as I listened to her lyrical vocal colors describing the scent of its soul.

The lament, “On the Lagoons,” tells of the loss of a lover. Winters fashioned her interpretation with stronger tones that had the raw sound of death combined with the prospect of unabated loneliness. Here her lowest tones became warmer and rounder when she described night as an immense shroud.

By this time, Winters’ audience knew she was a gifted tragedienne. She and accompanist Philippe worked with an almost closed piano that allowed every aspect of the soprano’s voice to be fully enjoyed.  She sang, “The flower of my life is closed,” with a sigh in the sound of her song. As she described the white creature in the cemetery lit by moonlight, Philippe played a gorgeous crescendo and she replied with the sweet tone that a “sigh from heaven” calls for. After these sad pieces, Berlioz allows us some respite in the song of the young lady who prefers the “faithful shore.”  The piano provides a delightful breeze as the singer tells the story.

Winters and her husband, the British tenor Adam Smith, concluded the first half of the program with a smoldering version of the love duet from Gounod’s “Faust.” Smith was the top prizewinner of the 2016 Ferruccio Tagliavini vocal contest and this spring, he will be Don José in “Carmen” at Seattle Opera. The intermission gave patrons a chance to look around and realize how lucky they are to enjoy such an intimate venue. There is no such thing as a bad seat in the tiny, steeply raked Holzclaw Hall.

Part Deux

Winters opened the second half of her recital with three night songs by early 20thcentury Viennese composer and critic Joseph Marx. His “Nachtgebet” or “Night Prayer” is really a song to the happy soul of a lover. The Nocturne describes the sounds and aromas of a beautiful calm evening and “Selige Nachtor / Blessed Night” tells of peaceful sleep with languorous, intoxicating dreams.

Her next group showed us night from a Spanish and Catalan point of view. Xavieer Montsalvatge’s “Canço Amorosa” described love in a boat while Jesús Guridi’s “Cómo quieres que adiviné” asked “How do you want me to guess when you will be mine?” Winters and Philippe performed them with delightful charm and great underlying musicality. With Manuel Garcia Morante’s “Farewell,” we began to expect the end of this delightful evening, but Eduard Toldrá’s lovely portrait of May and other delights were still to come.

Joining Forces

Adam Smith returned with Winters to sing the Act one finale of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” beginning with “Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia.”  Hearing these glorious voices in an intimate setting was an immense pleasure and the artists received thunderous applause at its end.  No doubt they were tired, although neither of them seemed to fade. For encores, Smith gave a bright and lusty rendition of “Recondita Armonia” from Puccini’s Tosca. Winters and Smith joined forces for the the final selection, “O soave fanciulla,” the Act one finale of the same composer’s  “La bohéme.”

It was the perfect ending to a wonderful evening in the most beautiful city in the Arizona Desert.


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