Rising bass-baritone dazzles in Vocal Arts DC debut at Kennedy Center.
By Patrick D. McCoy
It was a very cool evening a few weeks back in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater and bass baritone Luca Pisaroni gave a song recital to match in a debut that also marked his first time in Washington, D.C. Performing under the auspices of Vocal Arts DC, Pisaroni found himself before a full house of major arts supporters including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Adrienne Arsht, Chase Maggiano and Kennedy Center’s Rob Pullen.
Accompanied by pianist Wolfram Rieger, the singer entered on stage in a suit, relaxed with no tie. In contrast, the program for the evening was very serious and the repertoire for the most part was foreign in language and familiarity. Yet, with his commanding presence, Pisaroni was able to draw the listener into this palette of unfamiliar songs. The opening Beethoven set immediately showcased the lyrical warmth of Pisaroni’s voice, particularly in “In questa tomba obscura,” which he sang intelligently with control and a rounded contour to the vocal line. The Johann Reichardt songs that followed were short, but generally lovely Italian pieces. These provided an opportunity to showcase an engaging dialogue between the piano and the voice, with the musical material of the piano punctuating the sentiment of the vocal line. The “Canzon, s’al dolce loco” and “Pace non trovo” were both lyrical gems, if not vocal powerhouses, showing the bass-baritone to be quite strong in the upper register of the voice. Surprisingly, it was the lower range that seemed to have potential to mature.
Closing the first half of the program were five songs by Johannes Brahms. Perhaps the more well known in the recital, these seemed to showcase the darker resonance of Pisaroni’s voice and his ability to communicate musically without the slightest gesture. Franz Liszt rounded out the program following the intermission with “Ein Fichentenbaum” proving a great credit to Pisaroni’s ability to draw the audience into the moment. “In Liebeslust” was a beautifully sung ode to love, which seemed to capture the singer’s own heart. The last song of the group of four, “Wie nie sein Brot” gave the audience a small hint of the declamatory flair crediting Pisaroni’s current rise in the operatic firmament.
This performance marked Pisaroni’s fourth in his winter recital tour, following performances in Hamburg, London and Toronto. Vocal Arts DC will next present countertenor Iestyn Davies on April 8.
Recently named among the Forty Under 40 for his contributions to arts and humanities, Patrick D. McCoy received a B.M. in vocal performance from Virginia State University and a M.M. in church music from the Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va. , where he serves on the alumni board of directors. He has contributed arts and culture pieces to CBS Washington, The Afro-American Newspaper and the newly published book, “In Spite of the Drawbacks” (Association of Black Women Historians), which includes his chapter on legendary soprano Leontyne Price. McCoy has interviewed some of the most acclaimed artists of our time, including Renée Fleming, Joshua Bell, Martina Arroyo, Denyce Graves, Eric Owens, Norman Scribner, Julian Wachner, Christine Brewer and Lawrence Brownlee. He is music director at Trinity Episcopal Church, DC. Listen to these interviews and others at Blog Talk Radio. Additionally, he is a member of the Music Critics Association of North America. McCoy may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.