WQXR Tucker Recital

The Greene Space

"When I heard mezzo Jamie Barton at the Metropolitan Opera's recital in Central Park in the summer of 2014, she would have knocked my socks off--if I hadn't been wearing sandals. This time around­--newly anointed winner of the 2015 Richard Tucker Award--at a concert presented by WQXR at New York's Greene Space in SoHo, I was wearing my argyles and, sure enough, I went home barefoot. Barton proved, once again, that she's "the real thing."

For those of us who go to the opera, every once in a while we hear someone on stage and know that there are gods who walk among us (and not just in works by Richard Wagner). Tenor Richard Tucker was one of those, though he was too modest to describe himself that way. This year's winner of the Tucker Award--presented by the foundation that bears the tenor's name--mezzo Barton, is another, though this fresh-faced Georgia country girl would probably deny the description as well.

She does, however, revel in hearing others describe her accomplishments, as William Berger did at length, hosting the live webcast that went out over WQXR, the public radio station in New York. Her kudos include being named winner of both the Main and the Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and a winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Having heard Barton at much larger venues, I wondered how she'd scale down her large, luscious voice at the tiny Greene Space, but my fears were unfounded. Neither were any concerns about the chance to warm up on such a short program. She just let the music pour (and pour and pour) out and the audience ate it up: Beginning with a pair of songs by Jean Sibelius, first "Var det en drom?" ("Was it a dream?") and then "Svarta rosor" ("Black Roses"), the musicality was there but so was the warmth of her personality.

She followed up the songs a bit later in the program with a gorgeous performance of "Stella del marinar," Laura's aria from Ponchielli's LA GIOCONDA (the opera of Tucker's debut at the Met). She left me wanting more--and will happily oblige, as Giovanna Seymour in the run of Donizetti's ANNA BOLENA opposite Sondra Radnovansky, that begins during the opening week of the Met's season. (After singing BOLENA on September 26, she makes a mad dash for Rome, Georgia, her hometown, to do a benefit for the local theatre, billed as "An Evening with a Down-Home Diva," where she's planning on everything from church music to the Beatles' "Blackbird" to a few opera interludes.)"

Beth Stewart