It was a supremely controlled yet rather undisciplined program that British mezzo-soprano Sarah Walker and pianist Roger Vignoles brought to the Fine Arts Village Theatre at the University of California, Irvine, on Monday night.
Contradiction in terms? Hardly. Having already appeared at the Royal Opera House in London and the Vienna Staatsoper, Walker possesses a highly flexible middleweight voice that can seemingly do anything well, and Vignoles is blessed with almost all of the compleat accompanist's gifts.
Yet the program itself was overbalanced with extramusical baggage and middlebrowisms of an annoying sort, so that even a fine performance of Schumann's "Frauenliebe und Leben" was forgotten among the fripperies.
Monday's recital was tagged "Abandoned Heroines and Femmes Fatales"--a moniker that applied to only some of the program. In the first half, Haydn's Italianate go at the Ariadne legend ("Arianna a Naxos") was seamlessly delivered by Walker, with admirably long lines and telling characterizations.