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Philharmonic Debut : Vaness Gives Recital At Pavilion

November 21, 1986|DANIEL CARIAGA | Times Music Writer

Carol Vaness is a highly accomplished operatic singer, as she has now been proving for more than half a decade in important opera theaters, including those in New York and London.

But Vaness is not a deeply satisfying recitalist, as she showed in her recital debut--sponsored by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn.--in the Pavilion of the Music Center, Wednesday night.

In a reasonably varied, handsomely executed program--she was substituting for the indisposed Teresa Berganza--the statuesque, dark-haired, California-trained soprano offered many moments of vocal pleasure, but only occasional nourishment for the spirit. And, despite her very attractive appearance, Vaness really did not charm her audience.

Throughout this collection of songs and arias by Handel, Rossini, Mozart, Chausson, Kander and Turina, one was reminded that projecting poetry, in all its variety and meaning, through the medium of expressive sound, is the principal challenge posed by the vocal recital. Merely to arrange and deliver an interesting agenda is not enough. Engaging the listener, sharing insights and creating mood and character are required.

What Vaness did best, ably but impersonally assisted by pianist Warren Jones, displayed genuine interpretive strengths. Her singing of "Come scoglio," from "Cosi fan Tutte" had musical solidity and discipline, immaculate vocalism, an elegant sense of Mozartean line and polished details.

Her performance of five songs by Ernest Chausson--in particular a ravishing account of "Le Colibri"--often hit the mark in terms of gorgeous sound and evocative projection. And she seemed to bring real affection to a new cycle of three Roremesque songs written for her by John Kander (the composer of "Cabaret").

Otherwise, the evening had arid stretches, despite efficient and admirable vocalism. Vaness usually kept the words a secret, but joyfully traversed all the complicated passagework in two arias from Handel--"Di, cor mio," from "Alcina," and "Rejoice greatly," from "Messiah." The notes were beautiful, but the meanings only generalized in five excerpts from Rossini's "Serati Musicali." And intensity of expression made few appearances in her singing of three songs by Turina.

At the end, there was but one encore: Richard Strauss' "Zueignung."

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