<< -- 3 -- Kelly Ferjutz LASTING IMPRESSION
The major work on the program was Le Rossignol or The Nightingale, and it was superb. Subtitled 'A Musical Fairy Tale in Three Acts' it's really more of a one-act work, but in three scenes. Utilizing the full orchestra with chorus, it is entirely dependent on the soloists to make it special, and this was indeed the case. The very first song in Act I as sung by tenor Daniil Shtoda as the Fisherman, could easily have been a demonstration of an art song, so lyrical and impassioned as it was. The first evocation of the nightingale is the flute of Joshua Smith, limpid and silvery as always, followed shortly thereafter by the real thing -- Laura Claycomb. No wonder the Emperor wanted her! Such gorgeous singing! Ms Claycomb's voice is both sturdy and light at the same time. It is agile yet able to be easily heard over the entire orchestra, with secure pitch and an incredible range. In a bit of incredible but completely appropriate timing, the Fisherman sings 'Oh, God above, how beautiful it is' as the nightingale's song is heard.
The Emperor (Laurent Naouri) is entranced, until the Japanese envoy presents him with an artificial bird. It sung prettily, but nowhere near as well as the real thing. Soon, however, the Emperor becomes ill, and it is only the song of the real bird which can aid him. When the nightingale realizes this, she returns, singing for him until he recovers. Even Death (Beth Clayton) is charmed by the bird's song, and relinquishes his hold on the Emperor. Still, the lure of Nature calls the singing bird, and it returns to its original home, pleasing the Fisherman.
Mr Boulez conducted the massed forces with the alacrity and energy of someone half his age. The orchestra sounded marvelous, and the chorus, directed by Robert Porco, handled the Russian words with no hesitation whatever. All of the soloists were good; some of the younger ones (students from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music) will advance to the next level of their careers more easily for having had this experience.
The lasting impression, however, remains that of the Nightingale -- Laura Claycomb. It is hard to imagine a better nightingale anywhere at any time.
Franz Welser-Möst. Photo © Roger Mastroianni
Next week Music Director Franz Welser-Möst returns to conduct the remaining three weeks of the season. In August 2005, they'll again head for Europe and several festivals. For tickets or information, visit the web-site: www.clevelandorchestra.com.