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BWW Review: LUCAS AND IRINA MEACHEM RECITAL

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Arias from Operas Lucas Meachem Has Sung in San Francisco

BWW Review: LUCAS AND IRINA MEACHEM RECITAL

Baritone Lucas Meachem and his wife, pianist Irina Meachem, sang an aria-filled recital on to open the Merola Opera Program Recital Series September 27, 2020. Lucas Meachem graduated from Merola in 2003. One of the world's oldest and most prestigious opera training programs, Merola was founded in 1957, and named in honor of San Francisco Opera's first general director, Gaetano Merola. Although Merola operates in close artistic collaboration with San Francisco Opera, it is an independent nonprofit organization. Since leaving Merola, Lucas has performed in major opera houses all over the world. He is the Figaro on the grammy-winning recording of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles.

The Meachems opened the recital with the aria "Bella siccome un angelo" ("Beautiful as an Angel") from Donizetti's Don Pasquale. This aria sets the comedy in motion. Malatesta sings it to trick Don Pasquale into marrying his supposedly subservient and obedient "sister." Lucas acted with his voice to show not only its power and huge sound but also his ability to control it and sing with a mere thread of sound when describing the sweetness of the young lady. Irina announced each of the selections performed but at times she was a little hard to hear, possibly because they performed in an unenclosed area of Minneapolis' historic Mill City Museum. The recital was performed on Zoom.

Lucas continued with the Count's aria, "Hai già vinta la causa" ("You Have Already Won the Case") from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, in the original version that was written higher and with more decoration than the aria we usually hear. Lucas said that Sir Antonio Pappano recommended it and I for one am very grateful to him for that. It fits the Meachem baritone voice to perfection. I hope to get to hear him sing that live soon. Like so many tyrants, the Count cannot imagine that his servants would plot against him-for that aria, Lucas was a complete aristocrat.

Still in aristocratic mode, Lucas sang Don Giovanni's serenade "Deh vieni alla finestra ("Come to the window") smoothly and persuasively as he tried to seduce a pretty lady's maid with honeyed words. In "Mab, la Reine des Mensonges" Mercutio told of Mab, the queen of lies who presides over dreams. With a coach of the tiniest materials driven by a gnat, she rides across the night and has fled in an instant. Vocally, Lucas created the tiny character and her fleeting motions. He even danced toward the end of the piece. Irina played Gounod's filigreed music with seeming ease as she followed Lucas on his excursion into Mercutio's dream.

The title character's aria from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, "Kogda bï zhizn domashnim krugom" ("You Wrote to Me. Do not Deny it") is his answer to Tatiana'a letter. Lucas's Onegin was stern with the young Tatiana as he told her she had no chance with him, but the audience saw just a flicker of vulnerability as he rejected her. There was a technical problem during the aria and we did not get an uninterrupted rendition of the entire piece.

"Mein Sehnen, Mein Wähnen" ("My yearning, my obsession"), is the "Dance Song" sung by Fritz' s character, Pierrot, in Korngold's opera Die tote Stadt ("The Dead City"). Having once obtained his dream, having danced on the Rhein in the moonlight, Fritz has lost both illusion and happiness. With this piece, Lucas and Irina created a contemplative atmosphere that encouraged thoughts of the past.

The Meachem's finale was "Love Let the Wind Cry...How I Adore Thee," the text of which tells of love and nature. In 1961, Undine Smith Moore set the English version of this poem by Sappho to music. Speaking before performing the work, Irina exclaimed that this song by a woman of color was unjustly forgotten. She certainly was correct, and their exquisite rendition proved the point. A granddaughter of slaves, Moore was born in 1904. Graduating from Fisk University in 1926, she earned her master's degree from Columbia University in 1931. From 1927 to 1972 Dr. Moore taught piano, organ and music theory at Virginia State College where she was co-founder of the Black Music Center.

Since there were numerous favorable comments about the recital on the web, the Meachems offered an encore they did not name beforehand, "I left my heart in San Francisco." A perfect ending for an excellent recital with only one tiny technical glitch. Hopefully, in the spring, life will return to normal and we will hear Lucas Meachem sing "The Song to the Evening Star" in Wagner's Tannhäuser at Los Angeles Opera.

Photo of Lucas and Irina Meachem courtesy of Merola Program.



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