Friday, November 22, 2013

Becoming Deborah Voigt

Soprano Deborah Voigt
You only have till tonight to catch "Voigt Lessons," a mix of reminiscence and music by soprano Deborah Voigt (left), which plays at the Calderwood as part of the Celebrity Series season (Ms. Voigt returns to Boston in the spring with an evening of art song).  And opera fanatics will definitely want to attend, even if much of the evening is given over to pop; the show feels startlingly intimate in the Calderwood, and Voigt's glorious vocal instrument somehow seems all the more phenomenal when the performer herself is up close and personal.

Indeed, I often wished that "Voigt Lessons" was more focused on, well, Voigt's voice, and how the soprano transformed herself from a star in her church choir to one of the world's leading Wagnerians. All while remaining "Debbie Voigt" off-stage, btw - famously down-to-earth (even a little earthy), Voigt has stayed a straightforward American gal throughout the rising arc of her international career.

The soprano devotes much of her monologue to her personal travails, however, as well as her long (already well-publicized) battles with food (and then alcohol).  These are all touching, and recounted with good humor - and to many will resonate; but in the end they sound quite similar to what one finds in almost any other celebrity confession (Ms. Voigt is currently working on a memoir). Meanwhile what makes this soprano special as an artist somehow goes missing. But then I'm probably unique in wanting to hear more about how exactly one prepares to sing Brunhilde, anyhow.  Although I should note that we don't get to hear that particular role during "Voigt Lessons"; still, the soprano does deliver some eloquent performances of Brahms and Strauss (to responsive accompaniment by pianist Kevin Stites), and even, hilariously, that ultimate tenor warhorse, "Nessum Dorma." And at such moments, Voigt's famous voice comes through loud and clear - and everything else seems to melt away.

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