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BWW Review: Merola Opera Program: ANYTHING FOR LOVE AND HONOR

This Recital Presents a Find New Dramatic Tenor

BWW Review: Merola Opera Program: ANYTHING FOR LOVE AND HONOR On Sunday, March 21, 2021, tenor Issachah Savage and collaborative pianist Laurie Rogers gave a half-hour recital called Anything for Love and Honor for the Merola Opera Program. Savage, a former member of Merola, won three prizes at Seattle's International Wagner Competition in 2014: First Prize, the Audience Prize, and the Orchestra Favorite Award. Milestones of Savage's more recent seasons include his Seattle Opera debut as Bacchus in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, his Metropolitan Opera debut as Don Riccardo in Verdi's Ernani, his Los Angeles Opera debut as Narraboth in Salome, and his first Siegmund in Die Walküre at the Canadian Opera Company.

The artists opened the program with Roman Tribune Cola Rienzi's Act V prayer, "Almachtiger Vater, blick herab" ("Almighty Father look down"). This is a beautiful but little known aria and I wish Merola had provided titles for it. The melody is simple and evokes thoughts of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin which the composer would soon write. Savage definitely has the voice and bearing for Wagner-a bright tenor sound combined with power and stamina. Angelinos expect to see him as Tannhäuser at LA Opera when Covid regulations allow.

Savage continued with three romantic love songs by Richard Strauss: "All' mein Gedanken" ("All my thoughts go to you"), Ruhe meine Seele, ("Be peaceful my soul"), and "Heimliche Aufforderung" ("Secret Invitation") which reflect the rollercoaster-ride and thrills of a relationship. The second and third song were part of Strauss's wedding present to his wife, the well known soprano Pauline de Ahna. Savage showed his ability to sing legato and create a mood for romance.

His Hugo Wolf group, taken from the Italian Songbook, included "Gesegnet sei durch den die Welt entstund" ("Blessed be the one who created the world"), "Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehen?" ("And would you see your lover die?"), "Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen, liebstes Leben" ("Now let us decide on peace, my life's love"), and "Ein Ständchen euch zu bringen kam ich her" ("I came to bring all of you a serenade"). These are short songs for which Savage created instant characters with his voice more than with gesture.

Then came the piece we were waiting for: Siegmund's monologue "Winterstürme" ("Winter Storms") from the first act of Wagner's Die Walküre. The smooth opening of this gorgeous work exhibited Savage's bright sounding lyricism and wide-ranging dynamics to great advantage. I definitely want to see him perform Siegmund.

Savage's finale was Parsifal's narrative, "Nur ein waffen Taugt: die Wunde schliesst der Speer nur der sie schlug" ("Only the spear that made the wound can close it") from Act 3 scene 2 of Wagner's Parsifal. In both these pieces. Savage combined lyrical sound, impeccable diction, and sizable vocal power. This short concert gave only an inkling Savage's abilities. I hope to hear more of his singing soon in a fully staged opera at the theater. Laurie Rogers is a consummate musician and I hope to see her conduct performances in the near future.

Picture of Issachah Savage courtesy of Merola Opera Program.

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