BWW Review: JAMIE BARTON is the G*ddamned Diva Opera Deserves
I've always wondered what it would be like to swim in a pool of maple syrup-and now I know.
From the minute Ms. Barton opened her mouth, she unleashed a rolling tone that poured over her audience, soaking them in the sugary, maple tones of her delicious mezzo. We were drenched-but in the way an idyllic bite of pancake is drenched. This recital was like eating a bite of flapjacks so perfectly proportioned-soaked in the right amount of syrup, where the butter has mixed with the sweet, gooey, deliciousness to create the perfect balance of fatty substance with sugary indulgence. So perfectly proportioned that, frankly, I may never eat pancakes again.
Proportioned so deftly, that text was never sacrificed for tone and tone never sacrificed for text, particularly in her English offerings. Her handling of English diction was a true masterclass-one to be studied by both green and seasoned singers alike. The choice to program the evening heavily with English repertoire was a strong one, playing to her wide variety of strengths, including, but not limited to, her humor. Ms. Barton has a smile that could light up Times Square during a power outage and she capitalized on this during her hilarious selection of Libby Larsen songs from Love after 1950. These songs, particularly Big Sister Says, 1967, encompassed her humor, personality and thunderously beautiful voice.
However, as much love as I have for her treatment of English song and text, the true star of the evening was Duparc's Phidylé. When she performed-nay, lived-this piece I felt like a voyeur. The audience watched this oppressively intimate, naked moment she was experiencing onstage, and yet, somehow, was transformed with her. See, she was not performing this piece for us, and yet nothing about it was closed off. We were let in completely, but it was clear we weren't invited. She somehow mastered the art of singing for herself AND for us-a marriage so rarely seen. I've always said that, when you start dating someone, you should really get to know who they are when they're brushing their teeth at night. It's the most vulnerable anyone is all day-you have schmutz on your mouth, your guard is down, you're processing your day and getting ready to rest. You're rarely more vulnerable than that, day in and day out. That is what she showed us-the vulnerability of a human alone (except a full recital hall happened to be watching...). It was handled with such expertise that it gave a clear window into the inevitable longevity of her career. A peek into the mountains of mature, insightful interpretations that are on the horizon. This piece was expertly followed by Strauss' Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2 where we were shown the power of her instrument and given a further look into her future, this time as an opera legend.
I would be remiss in failing to mention pianist Kathleen Kelly. She is a godsend and so expertly led Ms. Barton through each transitional doorway of the Haydn that she deserves a medal. Throughout the evening she anticipated Ms. Barton's every move and shone both as an expert pianist and an exceptional collaborator-the dream for any singer. The fun she had during Ravel's drinking song made me want to pour us glasses of bourbon and shoot the breeze. She was the perfect collaborator for this evening.
In conclusion: Ms. Barton's 'oo vowel' made me wet, and the way she incorporated dynamics without being precious made me weak in the knees. Moreover, her choice to include so many female composers and women on stage, especially at this time in our history, made me fall in love. Ms. Barton chose to sing a piece from Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, and I just have to say: Jamie, if you ever need a Dulcinée, please call me!
Take the time to review Ms. Barton's calendar here; you'll want to see her perform before scoring tickets will be impossible.
Publicity Photo Credit: Fay Fox
Performance Photo Credit: Richard Termine