BWW Review: ANA MARIA MARTINEZ at Crowder Hall, U Of AZ
On February 5, 2019, The Tucson Desert Song Festival and the University of Arizona (UA) presented a recital of Spanish language art songs by soprano Ana María Martínez and pianist Craig Terry in Crowder Hall. The songs, from Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico were appropriate to the Puerto Rican soprano and to the Tucson public, which comes from various Spanish-speaking areas. Crowder is the larger of the halls at UA and its size was appropriate to the public commanded by Martínez. She opened with Joaquin Rodrígo's Four Love Madrigals: ¿Con qué la Lavaré? (With What Should I Wash?), Vos me metásteis (You Killed Me), ¿De dónde venís, Amore? (Where Do You Come from, Love?), and De los álamos vengo, madre (I Come from the Poplar Trees, Mother).
She wore a bright red tucked silk fitted gown that showed her slim figure and proved that singers don't have to be plump to have dramatic voices. Accompanied by virtuoso collaborative pianist Craig Terry, she sang first of pain and sad love affairs with drama in her tones. The last two songs are happier, however, and in them she told of the joys of newly found love with perfectly placed coloratura and phrases that ended in glorious pianissimi as virtuoso collaborative pianist Craig Terry played well-articulated intricate lines underneath her dulcet tones.
Her second group was Manuel DeFalla's Seven Spanish Popular Songs: El paño moruno (The Moorish Cloth), Seguidilla Murciana, Asturiana, Jota, Nana (Lullaby), Canción (Song), and Polo (pole). First, she sang deliciously of the young woman who partied too much and lost something she could never regain, then she sang of dances from different parts of Spain. Martínez later mentioned that she had sung Nana to her son when he was a baby. Song again refers to a young woman's lost treasure and in Polo she expresses her anger at the lover who left her alone and grief-stricken.
Martínez finished the first half of the program with Joaquin Turina's Poema in Forma de Canciónes (Poems in the Form of Songs). Seriously dramatic while performing Dedicatoria (Dedication) and Nunca olvida (Never Forget), she sang Cantares (Songs), and Los dos Miedos (The two Fears) with a great deal of en energy and vivacity. As for Las Locas por amor (The Ladies Crazy for Love), she had the whole audience laughing at her antics.
After intermission Martínez appeared in a soft green chiffon asymerical gown with a drape at the back that formed a train. She sang songs by nine different composers, three of whom were women. She mentioned that in Amanecer Monsita Ferrer was describing the dawn over the mountains of Puerto Rico and Martínez colored the soft melody with the resonance of her strong but lyrical voice. She sang of the sad legacy of prejudice in works by Montsalvatge and Lecuona. Her rendition of Mulatta Infeliz (Unhappy Woman of Mixed Race) from the Cuban Zarzuela María la O was particularly affecting.
All evening long she sang with total control, employing even vocal color throughout her enormous range. Her ability to vary her sound from dramatic fortissimo to the most beautiful thin thread of silver was impressive. Whereas most recitalists want the top of the piano down as far as they can get the pianist to put it, Martínez sang with it all the way up and had no problem being heard above the full sound of Craig Terry's elegant accompaniment.
Manuel Ponce's Lamento Borincano (Lament of the Puerto Rican) told of a peasant on the island, which is again in need. Estrellita is about wishing on a star and one could hear the murmurs of recognition as Martínez and Terry began it. Even in New York City, we learned it in elementary school. She told of a lovely doll in Maria Grever's Muñaquita Linda and of secret sadness in Alma Mia (My Soul). Daniel Catán's Comprendo (I Understand) was a gift from a composer who died much too young, while Rosario de Alba's Soy Loca por tu Amor (I'm Crazy for your Love) let the singer show her ability with a different kind of song. Her finale was Cole Porter's Volver a Empezar! (Start Over!). She only sang one encore, Fernando Obradors' Del cabello más sutil (Of the softest Hair), but it was one of the most beautiful love songs in the huge Spanish repertoire. Tuesday's program was a treat for the ears in a charming bi-lingual and bi-cultural city.
Photo by Tom Specht