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MUSIC REVIEWS

Golden's Dramatics Hinder Her Songs

July 20, 1996|TIMOTHY MANGAN

Soprano Ruth Golden presented a recital of American song Thursday night in UCLA's Jan Popper Theater that left one thinking about the presentation, not the songs or the singing.

For this survey ranging from Ives to Bolcom, Korngold to Jake Heggie (who also acted as crisp accompanist throughout the recital), Golden provided no printed texts. Though all but one of the songs were in English, and though her enunciation was fairly clear, no singer can project every word, and no listener catch every one, in the elongated and elliptical lyrical environment of poetry and song. Whole phrases might as well have been in Urdu; the meaning of entire songs was lost.

Golden, a veteran of New York City Opera, revealed an expressive and technically solid voice, despite some constriction up high. Her tone had ample breadth and richness of hue, but she overprojected in the intimate setting, which led to blare.

Her expressiveness, unfortunately, didn't stop at her voice. She acted out every text, vamping, camping, pleading, spreading her arms out wide. She mimed innocence, injury, cutesiness, resignation. She tangoed. For her set of Hollywood songs by Korngold and Weill, she donned a red feather boa. Such posing only detracted from her attractive voice and underlined the obvious in the songs. One might even extrapolate a small rule from the experience: Never dramatize a song based on the poetry of William Blake.

Midway, she offered the premieres of five winning songs of the G. Schirmer Art Song Competition. These were competent affairs, aphoristic in their brevity.

In fact, Golden slated a few too many short songs (pieces by Barber, Rorem, Hoiby, Argento, Copland, Niles and Ricky Ian Gordon were also heard) in all too similar a form: a slow, curving rise to a forte high note followed by a single sentence, pianissimo epilogue, like a sigh.

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