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Sondra Radvanovsky Dazzles at Carnegie Hall

Sondra Radvanovsky (R) with pianist Anthony Manoli. Photo © 2022 Steve J. Sherman.

At Carnegie Hall on the evening of Wednesday, November 16th, I had the pleasure of attending a marvelous recital—entitled “From Loss to Love”—by the superb, Canadian, operatic soprano, Sondra Radvanovsky, excellently accompanied by pianist Anthony Manoli.

The singer, whose voice was in powerful form, appeared in a fabulous black gown, opening the event with one of the greatest works in the program: Henry Purcell’s "When I am laid" from Dido and Aeneas. She followed this with Georg Friedrich Händel’s “E pur così in un giorno … Piangerò la sorte Mia" from Giulio Cesare in Egitto, which program annotator Janet E. Bedell describes as the composer’s “most popular opera.” Henri Duparc was represented by three songs, the first two set to texts by the Symbolist poet Jean Lahor: "Chanson triste" and “Extase.” The third, “Au pays où se fait la guerre,” originally titled “Absence,” from a poem by the eminent Théophile Gautier, was written for an unfinished opera. Three songs by Sergei Rachmaninoff—which Radvanovsky dedicated to the late, impossibly dashing baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky—were also featured. The first, “Sing not to me, beautiful maiden,” from a text by Alexander Pushkin, is from his Opus 4 of 1893, his first set of songs to be published. This was followed by “How fair this spot” from 1902 and “I wait for you” from 1894, written when the composer was twenty-one. The first half of the event concluded with Franz Liszt’s Three Petrarch Sonnets—written for tenor voice—which demonstrated the singer’s special affinity for the Italianate repertory of the Romantic movement. She sang the earliest version of this work, “first sketched in 1838 or 1839,” according to Bedell.

The second half of the program—for which the soprano wore a stunning, deep blue gown—was truly remarkable, however, beginning with four songs by Richard Strauss. Her performance of the first, “Allerseelen”—which closes his first set of published songs, his Opus 10 of 1885, when the composer was twenty-one—was one of the supreme moments of the evening and the song was one of its very finest. After “Befreit” from 1898—set to a text by the eminent German poet, Richard Dehmel—Radvanovsky reached the other peak in the recital, with the astonishing “Morgen!” from 1894. After “Heimliche Aufforderung,” the singer came into her own too with most of the Italian repertory that dominated the remainder of the evening, starting with Giuseppe Verdi’s “In solitaria stanza” from his Sei romanze of 1838, which was another highlight along with Stefano Donaudy’s “O del mio amato ben” from 1918 that immediately followed. After Verdi’s “Stornello”of 1869, the soprano concluded the program with two of her best renditions: the world premiere of contemporary American composer Jake Heggie’s “If I Had Known” to a text by Radvanovsky herself and Umberto Giordano’s aria “La mamma morta” from his celebrated opera, André Chenier. She equalled these with two encores: Francesco Cilea’s "Ecco: respiro appena... Io son l’umile ancella" from his opera Adriana Lecouvreur and what she said was her favorite aria, Giacomo Puccini’s "Vissi d'arte" from Tosca. She ended the evening with Harold Arlen’s immortal, glorious “Over the Rainbow,” set to lyrics by Yip Harburg.

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