Danielle de Niese
Don’t worry, you can
go home again. Or at least you can if you're Danielle de Niese, the young soprano whose vocal career has been on an upward swing after a series of very well-received performances in mostly Baroque material including a hugely successful 2005 Glyndebourne performance as Cleopatra in Handel’s Gulio Cesare
. As glamorous as that may sound, her debut recital appearance in Los Angeles was strictly old home week over at the newly-opened Broad Stage
in Santa Monica. Another gift from art-loving philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, the performance space, developed in conjunction with Santa Monica College, is a beautiful little room on the West side of town, perfect for just this kind of program. But given de Niese’s numerous connections to this city, where she grew up and attended school, the worldly beauty of the room seem subjugated to a kind of high-school-gym enthusiasm from the crowd, which de Niese clearly reciprocated seeing numerous family and friends in the audience.
And frankly she deserves the adulation. Her warm and surprisingly sizable voice came bursting forth and she is no wall flower in the expressivity department. She kicked things off in familiar territory with two arias from Handel’s Semele
, a part that would seem made for her. Playful and energetic she breezed through runs and trills with sheer joy. She moved on after this to a widely varied program including songs from Grieg, Wolf, Barber, Poulenc and Bizet. Perhaps the most intriguing to me were the Grieg songs. I’ve not been exposed to a whole lot of Norwegian singing outside of Prairie Home Companion, so her diction may well have been flawless for all I know, and she filled them with real drama and tension. If there were any real criticism of the evening, for me, it would be that I did feel she took a bit of an overly uniform line of attack. De Niese often seemed to be playing the vamp in these numbers in a highly accentuated dramatic style. As the evening wore on, I wished many times for some changes in tone allowing her to stretch muscles that required more subtlety or inward reflection. To this hometown crowd, though, she could clearly do no wrong. She wrapped up the evening with the same sly vixen approach with Cole Porter's "I Hate Men" from Kiss Me Kate
. A little hard to believe, perhaps, but a nice end to the evening.