by Joseph K. So
L'accordeoniste: Latin Heat!
Non ti scordar di me
Latin Medley I: Quizas, quizas, quizas & Quien sera
Lass mich einmal deine Carmen sein
Latin Medley II: Kiss of Fire and Besame mucho
Tango Medley: Fracanapa/Libertango
Nina from Argentina
Nana/Asturiana from Siete canciones populares Espanolas
Una spina e una rosa
Encore: Habanera from Carmen
Kimberly Barber, soprano
Mary Lou Vetere, accordion
Peter Tiefenbach, piano
Carol Baumann, percussion
Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre
October 2, 2011
Opera In Concert's 2011-12 season opened this afternoon with something different, a decidedly non-operatic program, Habanera as an encore notwithstanding. It starred the group L'accordeoniste, made up of four very talented musicians led by mezzo-soprano Kimberly Barber. They recorded a debut CD last year the launch of which I attended. At that event, they performed a few selections from the album, so this afternoon was the first time I heard a full-length concert live with them. Perhaps because it wasn't "opera" in an opera subscription series, the intimate Jane Mallett Theatre was not very full. Well, those who stayed away missed a very enjoyable concert given by four terrific musicians.
Often when opera singers attempt so-called "cross-over" repertoire, their training and technique mean that they still sound like opera singers. Not Kimberly Barber - listening to her Noel Coward and Kurt Weill this afternoon, one would never have guessed that she's had a major career as a celebrated Xerxes, Rinaldo, Octavian and Composer. A versatile artist, Barber sings this material completely idiomatically, with all the right inflections, accents, and great attention to the words and the drama. A high mezzo for her whole career, the voice has darkened with maturity while retaining much of the gleam and richness, if also a somewhat more pronounced slow vibrato. Her way with words makes these songs of love and love lost come alive. This particular afternoon, she appeared to be facing some sort of wardrobe malfunction - more specifically the train of her dress constantly at odds with her stiletto heels. Despite these little annoyances, Barber kept her cool and gave a lovely performance. She could not have had a better collaborator in accordionist Mary-Lou Vetere who is a super-virtuoso and a true collaborator of equals. Her solo pieces were dazzling as usual. Peter Tiefenbach of course has a very fine reputation as a collaborative pianist. His versatility and his sense of humour - not to speak of his more than serviceable tenor (although he didn't sing on this particular afternoon) - comes in handy. Often in a group, the percussionist is an afterthought, but the marvelous Carol Baumann was magical this afternoon in creating amazing sound effects as well as the traditional percussive backups. Latin Heat! was the perfect tonic for a cold and wet early fall afternoon.