"Meine Lippen, sie kuessen so heiss," from Franz Lehar's "Giuditta," is a lilting tune that lies easily on the voice. Indeed, at the very end of her performing career, Beverly Sills added it to "The Merry Widow" and made it memorable--indelible, really--primarily through interpretive nuance.
On Friday, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sang the same operetta excerpt as part of a Los Angeles Philharmonic "Vienna, City of Dreams" program at Hollywood Bowl. However, even with vocal resources that Sills never commanded, Te Kanawa found no atmosphere, no poignance, no lilt in the little ditty--just the bare notes. And the excessively bright Bowl acoustic/sound system stole much of the bloom from Te Kanawa's notably rich tone as well.
So it went. A charmless run-through of the csardas from Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Die Fledermaus." Skillful but expressively remote performances of Mozart opera arias (including "Ah, fuggi il traditor" from "Don Giovanni" as her encore) that sometimes evaporated in the wide-open spaces ("Porgi amor") and elsewhere fell victim to airplane noise ("Dove sono").
Besides considerate accompaniments, Leonard Slatkin conducted rousing but restrained performances of hyperfamiliar repertory. His genial approach to Franz von Suppe's "Poet and Peasant" Overture avoided climactic overkill. He savored delicacy in Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik." He recaptured the zest in a handful of Johann Strauss Jr. bonbons (among them, the name-that-tune compendium "Artists' Quadrille") without sacrificing the warmth.
Slatkin even triumphed over an uncredited, strangely unfocused arrangement of music from Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier."
There were 12,801 spectators in Hollywood Bowl on Friday and, at times, a seemingly equal number of aircraft overhead. Attendance for the same program on Saturday: 14,110.