Recital Tour with Bradley Moore

Carnegie Hall

"Jamie Barton shows that she’s a powerhouse of a mezzo-sopranoDuring her recital debut at Zankel Hall on Tuesday evening, she exuded immense likability and down-to-earth charm. Ms. Barton’s voluptuous voice, dusky and scintillating, with each note animated by an interplay of richly shaded overtones, was well served by the Chausson selections. Here, the languidly unfolding melodies created sufficient space for her to play with a mesmerizing array of tone colors. In “Hébé,” she was able to thin out her voice on the final word, “divin,” in a way that maintained its lustrous sheen. The broody melancholy of “Le temps des lilas” (“The Time of Lilacs”) made the most of her dark low register.”
–Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, The New York Times

"It's the wrong time of year to expect a hurricane in New York, but that didn't stop mezzo Jamie Barton from taking Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall by storm this week. With her warmth, sly sense of playfulness and a voice that just won't quit, Barton held the audience captive.

Her program, accompanied by pianist Bradley Moore, showed off many of the qualities that won her the Main and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition (a showcase for opera and concert singers at the outset of their careers): velvet tone, a clear focus and huge range and, perhaps most importantly, the joy of singing. Centerpiece of the evening was the world premiere of Jake Heggie's three-song cycle, "The Work at Hand," which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Heggie is much admired--by a broad range of singers and audiences alike--for his vocal writing, which is definitely tonal in style and easily accessible. (Mezzo Susan Graham has also spoken about his "emotional veracity.") This work is no exception. Collaborating with pianist Moore and the wonderful cellist Anne Martindale Williams, Barton's measured lyricism and adept phrasing--and winning manner--were well served by the piece. Williams' muscular playing during the introduction to "Individual Origami" (the first of the songs) was outstanding.

The rest of the program was designed to show off Barton's skills in adapting to the demands of a wide range of musical (and foreign) languages. Singing works often done by sopranos, Barton was equally at home with very different composers, whether the urgent, plaintive lines of Joaquin Turina's "Homenaje a Lope de Vega" or luxuriating in Ernest Chausson's "Le colibri" and "Hébé." I found her particularly compelling in Dvorak's suite of "Gypsy Songs," which displayed Barton's ability to switch styles and feeling without sacrificing the group's cohesiveness; she soared ecstatically in "When my old mother taught me to sing," bringing out the poignancy and yearning in her voice.

I missed having some opera selections on the program--I greatly admired her performances of Bellini, Cilea and Verdi in Central Park last summer, at the Met's annual concert--but the hymns she chose for her encores showed that she's not only a wonderful singer but a thoughtful one as well."
–Richard Sasanow, Broadway World

"When an opera singer gets a lengthy standing ovation with whoops and shouts, the world must sit up and take notice. This generation has not seen the likes of mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton whose stardom is assured. If folks outside of the opera world got to hear last night's recital at Zankel Hall, Beyoncé might be knocked off her perch.
When we speak of a complete artist, this is what we have in mind: a thrilling instrument, perfect technique, compelling stage presence, engagement with the material and rapport with the audience. All this Ms. Barton has in spades. Her richly textured voice reminds one of a chocolatey porter; it is as smooth and weighty as burnished brass. The remarkable feature is that every song sounds different as Ms. Barton seems to channel the intent of the poet..."
–Meche Kroop, The Opera Insider

"Jamie Barton stops time through lyric transformations. She makes clear the power of music to do what is physically impossible. You can't raise the stakes much higher. as she transports us into unfamiliar worlds of sound and spirit which strike the heart.

She can also be very funny, billowing about in The Last Savage in Santa Fe. But on this night, she was more mellow, reflective, often sad. In her encores she gave two punches to the universe. And during her performance of Dvořák's Gypsy songs, her signature smile lit up the Hall.

Throughout the evening, Barton held us in stunned admiration. But she accomplishes much more than delight for the ear with her wide-ranging mezzo, which soars comfortably high and also into contralto depths. She is a natural, who has honed her talents without artifice.

Eli Jacobson, the superb New York critic, notes that Barton can sing in any language and get inside it. She completely inhabits a song. It is unusual for for a singer in many tongues to give the feeling and the color of each word and phrase in the languare. Native speakers often skim over the top of meaning. Yet, since song is a message in music, Barton's deep take reaches the listener directly.

From the interior songs of the delicate French composer Edward Chausson to the lusty gypsy songs of Anton Dvorak, Barton thrilled and chilled with her perfectly clear and comfortable voice. The two hymns she sung as encores capped the evening with joy."
–Susan Hall, Berkshire Fine Arts

"On February 17, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and pianist Bradley Moore gave a richly satisfying recital at Zankel Hall. Although Barton is rapidly establishing herself as one of the most important young voices in opera, it is in the intimate space of the recital hall where she shines brightest. Barton’s innate charm and communicative urgency radiated through her amber-hued voice and warm, Mona Lisa-smile directly to the audience.

Barton accentuated the sensuality of Joaquín Torina’s Homenaje a Lope de Vega with a smoky timbre, sultry chest voice and a subtle swing of her hips. In Ernest Chausson’s “Le colibri” and “Hébé,” she pared her voice down to an elegant silk thread while she began the dramatic “Le temps des lilas” with whispers that grew into cascades of bitter anguish.

Barton and Moore illuminated the arc of Schubert’s “Der König in Thule” through musical detail and variation. Barton made the familiar “Gretchen am Spinnrade” fresh by finding happy pockets of memory for Gretchen to dwell in amid her painful longing and pleas for death. The first half of the recital ended with a well-sung but anti-climactic “Rastlose Liebe.”

The world premiere of Jake Heggie’s The Work At Hand, a setting of three poems by the late Laura J. Morefield for mezzo, piano and cello, opened the second half of the recital. Cellist Anne Martindale Williams, playing with uninhibited theatricality, completed the trio. The first song “Individual Origami” began with an agitated duet for piano and cello that seemed to signify the poet’s racing mind. Slowly, the chaos settled into a tranquil, searching melody as the poet finds the words to express her inner life. “Warrior 1,” describing a woman’s strength through the yoga warrior pose, is a masterpiece of a poem that Heggie transforms into a masterpiece of a song. It made brilliant use of the power of Barton’s voice with its martial rhythms and an empowering melody that erupts ecstatically on the word “skyward.” The final song, “The Slow Seconds” is quieter in its brilliance as the poet contemplates the simple view from her window. The audience received the recycle with enthusiastic applause.

Antonín Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs was an opportunity to enjoy every facet of Barton’s talents from her idiomatic Czech diction and smoldering middle voice to the seamless, melancholic legato in the best known song from the cycle, “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” Barton rewarded the audience with two encores. Jay Ivey’s beautiful arrangement of “His Eye Are on the Sparrow” was sung to the audience with a beaming, grateful smile. With “Ride on King Jesus,” also arranged Mr. Ivey, Barton ended the evening with a high C powerful enough to convert any non-believer."
–Steven Jude Tietjen, Opera News


Oper Frankfurt

"Heavily mixed programs are not always ideal for the public, but they can really put on a display in a concert. The American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton sang works in six languages from very sensitive French song to gospel, and on the whole, it was as though each of them were what she does best.

An unusual offering again in the recital at Oper Frankfurt, Jamie Barton, in her early 30s, was apparently successful out of the starting gate in 2013. In the near future, she is singing Fricka in Houston, Azucena in Cincinnati, and Adalgisa (“Norma”) in Los Angeles. The repertoire in Frankfurt is the same, except for one number, as her concert at Carnegie Hall a few weeks ago. The gospel numbers were added in the place of a smaller American debut performance. Yes, she evidently sings world premieres, too.

Her voice is sometimes almost too powerful for the hall; definitely it was too powerful for the good piano accompaniment of Bradley Moore, who here really only can provide accentuation.

The voice is big and highly dramatic as needed, but can be always nonetheless soft, nuanced, color rich and uncannily secure. The combination of painstakingly prepared singing which in the end then comes across as relaxed is ideal for a song program and not the rule among young opera stars.

Barton, who performs with a likable spunk, slips almost nonchalantly into the songs of the Spaniard Joaquín Turina. In an artistically natural way, sung and yet narrated anew, the French section is successful: songs of tender summer and misfortune by Ernest Chausson.

Somewhat more ambivalent is the impression on more familiar terrain. Franz Schubert’s versions of “König in Thule” and of “Gretchen am Spinnrade” are a little on the melodramatic side, however tastefully they are fleshed out. Her soft “ch” surely is still being worked on.

Jamie Barton is at the very peak of her abilities again with “Rastlosen Liebe” and nevertheless after the intermission, with Antonin Dvorak’s unostentatious folksongs “Zigeunerliedern” (here sung in Czech). At the end, she sings the gospel arrangements unambiguously as an opera singer as if they were numbers of Gershwin. She then showed off her quick Italian encore from Francesco Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur” in a perfect outburst. Where will it lead, if her voice stays at such a peak?"
–Judith Stern Castle, Frankfurter Rundschau (German review translated by Richard & Megan Barrett)

"Ever taken a ride on the Blue-Fire rollercoaster at Europa-Park? The one that accelerates from 0 to 100 km / h in just 2.5 seconds. This presses you to your seat (with a force of 1 G). Similarly, this is what one felt after only the first few bars from mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton during her debut at the Oper Frankfurt. The American-born won the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition (both in the “Main” and “Song” categories,) and was named last year at the International Opera Awards in London as “Best Young Singer”. The young singer has so far performed mainly in the USA and is now beginning to conquer Europe.

For her recital she had chosen a demanding program. It included not only songs ranging from the Romantic up through Gospel, but also songs in five languages (Spanish, French, German, Czech and English), all of them delivered very freely and naturally without the use of a score. This alone deserves a lot of respect.

What distinguishes the young singer is primarily the sheer tremendous power of her voice, but also her pleasant, friendly personality and her charming, winning smile. The fact that a recital must consist not only of gloomy, romantic ideals was already demonstrated in June of 2011 by her compatriot Jennifer Larmore with a practically cheerful evening of song. Barton, who was born in the city of Rome (Georgia, USA), in contrast, was more serious. She presented the songs mostly with great arioso attitude. With many songs she left the terrain of delicate art song interpretation and sang freely and powerfully in vibrant shades, while always abounding in warm timbres.  So it was, right from the very first song, Joaquin Turina’s “Cuando tan hermosa os miro” (“If I look upon your beauty”), which is more dramatic aria than art song, while still very captivating. Yet during the subsequent song “Si con mis deseos” (“If by my desires”) she waved over to deep intimacy. This rollercoaster of expressions characterized her evening in which she frequently received enthusiastic applause between groups of songs.

A rarity in the program featured three songs by the French composer Ernest Chausson where, apart from “Hébé”, the particularly delicate “Le Colibri” ( “The hummingbird”) was delivered by her intimate performance.)

Eagerly awaited was her selection of songs by Franz Schubert. Presenting these well-known hits to the audience reflects her confidence – and rightly so! In addition to “Der König von Thule” it was especially “Gretchen am Spinnnrade” that she mastered confidently and with good understanding of the text.

After the break, she presented in its original Czech Dvořák’s “Gypsy Songs”, a small cycle of seven songs. To a certain extent, the high point of the entire evening was the fourth song, the famous “Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala” (“Songs My Mother Taught Me”); Angelic and powerful at the same time.

She completed her outstanding debut at the Oper Frankfurt with three Gospels. Her splendid “His eye is on the sparrow,” in which she, in spite of putting all of her strength into, was very withdrawn (some people know the song perhaps from the movie “Sister Act” or from Andre Heller’s “Body & Soul” – show). In the chorus it says “I sing: because I’m happy! I sing: because I’m free”, and it emanated from Barton from the first to the last winsome second.

“Ride on, King Jesus” (“Ride on, King Jesus”) made a worthy and powerful statement. She was accompanied by attentive and conscientious yet charmingly imaginative Bradley Moore. He is director of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and not just a first class companion but also as an active solo pianist and conductor. Together with Jamie Barton, he will be recording songs by Charles Ives later this year.

For an encore, Jamie Barton goes one better:  From the second act of the opera “Adriana Lecouvreur” by Francesco Cilea, she presented the aria of the Princess of Bouillon “Acerba voluttà” as a grand bravura (in Italian, paving the half-dozen of languages that evening full). A great deal of applause for this outstanding recital."
–Markus Gründig, KulturFreak (German review translated by Andrew Henry)



Beth Stewart