On January 23, 2022, soprano Sonya Yoncheva returned to the Metropolitan Opera stage for a special recital of French and Italian art songs, joined by pianist Malcolm Martineau.
Opening the program, four selections by Henri Duparc. The first, “L’invitation au voyage”, quickly created a tender but urgent atmosphere through the running accompaniment, on which Yoncheva delivered impassioned tones, all of which were content with a heavy shift to the middle section, carried by soft and lyrical phrases. The imagery of travel, like that of rest, has been treated with great delicacy to close this opening number. The second song, “Au pays ou se fait la guerre”, was full of rich longing, recounting the absence felt by one whose lover has gone to war in another country. These feelings were wonderfully conveyed by Yoncheva, as the possibility of the lover’s return spoke through the building tempo and tremolo, a hope that was negated as the number was brought to a gentle conclusion. and dark.
The third issue, “The Past Life,” featured opulent imagery in Charles Baudelaire’s text, which Yoncheva illuminated with a very present sense of their wonder at Martineau’s rolling arpeggios. The bound luxury was eventually clouded by feelings of dissatisfaction as the play slowly shrank towards its end. The last of the Duparc selections was “Sad Song,” where Yoncheva excelled in phrases of great affection that yearned for connection, such as “Thou shalt lay my anxious head, oh! Sometimes on your knees, and you’ll say a ballad to him that seems to be about us.
Followed “Hai luli! by Pauline Viardot. This sprightly estranged lover number carried with an almost humorous charm as thoughts of possible infidelity sparked a desire to burn down the lover’s village, his shifting concerns interrupted by the phrase’s passionate, evocative appeal. title, ending with a devoid conclusion and a warm reception from the audience.
The program then featured three songs by Ernest Chausson, the first of which, “Les temps des lilas” from “Poème de l’Amour et de la Mer”, featured mournful, floral imagery and the languorous and tragic energy of Yoncheva at the time. that she was reflecting on a love that is no more. The second song, “The Charm”, was brief and featured an upbeat accompaniment with highly sensory text, which softened beautifully with the dawning realization of love. The last was “Italian Serenade, Op. 2, No. 5,” where the calm, sea-like imagery was transformed into a charged, romantic atmosphere, full of wave-like ups and downs in the music.
Among these French works was a rarely heard play by Gaetano Donizetti, published posthumously as a box set in the 1970s, “Since another one knew how to please you”. Here, the sense of love and abandonment reached intoxicating heights as Yoncheva recounted the grief of a dying lover whose longing to see his beloved spoke through poignant vocal pain through the pleading phrases, all leading to a delicate and appropriate morendo. .
To close the first half of the program, “The Girls of Cadix” by Leo Delibes. Here, the quick, passionate accompaniment was matched by Yoncheva’s sultry phrases, her embellishments delivered in a relaxed yet spirited flow, heightened by her flirtatious pace and gestures.
The second half of the program was devoted to Italian works, starting with four songs by Giacomo Puccini. The first of these, “Sole e amore”, saw a beautiful contrast in Yoncheva’s playful accompaniment and lyrical delivery of the invocation to light and love. The following number, “Terre et mer”, flowed quickly through its imagery of a dream of the sea interrupted by the wind. The third piece, “The Warning Was Wrong”, carried more anguished feelings through its longer introduction, the narrator’s desolate fears and passions eliciting soaring tones of grief from Yoncheva, as well as sighs of haunted delicacy. Rounding out Puccini’s works is ‘Canto d’anime’, where the proud chordal introduction has softened to accentuate the building’s imagery of overcoming darkness, leading to a truly powerful and sonorous conclusion.
Then on the program, “Al folto bosco, placida ombria op. 68, No. 6. Yoncheva’s lush introductory material and loving delivery quickly coalesced to restore the sense of love and private spaces heard in earlier selections, tinged with sad nostalgia and a splendid sense of emotional investment in what was. The contrasting feelings of nostalgia and resignation were wonderfully complemented by the darkened downfall of the accompaniment as it gently returned to its earlier material.
Then come two songs by Paolo Tosti. The first song, “L’ultimo bacio”, was brief but filled with a sweet feeling of love and absence, feelings that shone warmly through Yoncheva’s poignant expression. The second, “Ideale,” allowed Yoncheva to showcase a stunning delicacy of tone, using a delivery thrilled by the beauty of the text while remaining present enough to feel its full effect.
To close the program, three songs by Giuseppe Verdi. The first, “In solitaria stanza”, carried a great plea through its supporting phrases and images of a burnt garden. The following song, “Ad una stella”, made a nice contrast for its colder and softer beauty, with Yoncheva putting great admiration in the puffed up repetitions of praise, ending this invocation with a gauze ending. The final number, “L’esule”, was an encapsulated journey in itself, heard through its enchanting, lyrical opening and utter illumination of Solera’s text with remarkable passion.
The evening’s concert saw three encores from Yoncheva and Martineau. The first, “Donde lieta usci” from Puccini’s “La boheme”, was beautifully and lovingly delivered through the bittersweet opening phrases. The second, the “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen,” saw Yoncheva employ a relaxed, almost conversational tone matched with seductive flair through her playful gestures as she played with Martineau. The end of the encores was “Adieu notre petite table”, by Massenet’s “Manon”, which gave a truly tender farewell as Yoncheva softly ended the recital.