The programming was bold but the execution pallid at a concert of music by Handel, Schoenberg and Leon Milo presented in the Cal State Long Beach Recital Hall on Monday by members of the university orchestra, New Music Ensemble and Lyric Theatre.
With high contrast in musical style, the program opened with Handel's bel-canto monodrama "Lucretia" and closed with Schoenberg's Expressionist "Pierrot lunaire." Sandwiched in between was Milo's inoffensive "Hei-Kyo-Ku," a short study built upon contrasts of its own.
Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Vlahos was more successful as the soloist in "Lucretia" than as the speaker in "Pierrot."
To Handel, she brought vocal poise, care and intelligence--admirable qualities in themselves, although not altogether sufficient for a work that depicts Lucretia's violent anger at her ravishment, her appeal to the gods for revenge and her decision to kill herself so that she can pursue vengeance from hell.
But Vlahos' dramatic sense did not extend much beyond the use of dark shading. Still, she embellished the repeats of her arias with neatness and taste, and suffered only occasionally from sagging pitch.