Deborah Voigt, a True Soprano
The American Songbook, in its Broadway musical form, is often sung with varying degrees of interpretation from singers in nightclubs and symphony halls across the country, yet rarely has the genre sounded so regal as when the magnificent soprano Deborah Voigt lends her glorious vocal styling to the mix, as was the case Wednesday at UCLA's Royce Hall.
It is a lovely revelation to discover that Voigt spent her childhood singing classic Broadway showtunes, as it could easily be surmised that the gallant singer was memorizing German operas, for which she is perhaps most celebrated, while still a youngster. That such an accomplished opera star could emerge from growing up on Broadway melodies is a grand seal of approval for the uniquely American musical art form.
And revelatory is perhaps the perfect word in describing the evening with Voigt, as she lifted every song she approached that evening to a royal status, digging deep to find the emotional center of each number, while maintaining a calming rhythm throughout. Musical director and pianist Ted Sperling, often associated not only with his Tony award winning Broadway orchestrations but also for working with another soprano, Audra McDonald, has brought his love for obscure musicals to Voigt in a brilliant pairing of talents.
Sperling has a penchant for highlighting long forgotten, or often failed, Broadway musicals, and although slightly foreign taken out of context, each of the numbers blend with Voigt's pleasing crack at the American songbook variety. A Kurt Weill segment, including "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" from A Touch of Venus and "Is it Him or is it Me/Mr. Right" from Love Life, are exquisitely selected for Voigt's ability, providing a reminiscent walk down 1940's musical theatre lane.
With a few asides from Voigt, though seemingly somewhat uneasy in moments of banter, she paints an entertaining picture of her background performing in varied high school musical theatre productions.
Obviously delighted with his upcoming Broadway revival of South Pacific, Sperling also selected "Bali H'ai" for Voigt, and along with songs from Follies, Mame, Showboat, The Music Man and Rags, the singer finely captures every nuance of the stage without escaping the operatic flair she always brings.
Photo of Deborah Voigt by Joanne Savio.