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Monologues - Thomas Pasatieri / Illick, Flanigan, Et Al

Release Date: 12/09/2008 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1083   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Thomas Pasatieri
Performer:  Joseph IllickLauren Flanigan
Conductor:  Joseph Illick
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Change
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PASATIERI Before Breakfast. 1 Lady Macbeth 2 Lauren Flanigan ( Charlotte, 1 Lady Macbeth 2 ); Joseph Illick (pn); 2 cond; 1 Voices of Change C Ens 1 ALBANY TROY 1083 Read more (54:00 Text and Translation)

Lauren Flanigan is a name well known in opera circles, and yet I have only heard her sing a few times prior to auditioning this CD. First was in the small role of Lucienne in Corigliano’s Ghosts of Versailles , her debut with the Metropolitan Opera (though I didn’t note it at the time), and soon after as the bedeviled woman in Weir’s The Vanishing Bridegroom in St. Louis. More recently, she was impressive in the title role of Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae for Telarc. She has only sung four roles at the Met, all in the early 1990s, so there have been few chances to hear Saturday broadcasts. Her career has tended to follow the new and interesting opera assignments, and her operatic home, if there is one, has been across Lincoln Center in the New York City Opera. While that has certainly been a remarkable relationship, with an impressive list of roles—many of them premieres and many of them in contemporary American operas—it is a sad fact that for many opera fans Lauren Flanigan’s name is better known than her singing. This release makes it clear why that is an unfortunate state of affairs.

Thomas Pasatieri is a composer who plays perfectly to Flanigan’s remarkable dramatic gifts. Written in a conservative, neo-Romantic idiom, these works use a musical language that Strauss, Puccini, or Barber (or the oft-mentioned influence, Menotti) would have found comfortable, spiced at times with Bartók and the occasional taste of Hollywood, where he made his living for two decades. No new compositional ground is broken here, but in truth that isn’t what matters, since he does something more valuable: he tells the story with the music instead of simply adding music to the story. It is an important distinction. Pasatieri, judging from this offering, never forgets that opera is a lyric, not a declamatory, art form.

Before Breakfast was written for Beverly Sills in 1978, a setting of a libretto by Frank Corsaro from a short play by Eugene O’Neill. Never sung by Sills, it was revised in 2006 for Flanigan. Though almost embarrassingly cliché and melodramatic, the story works because of Pasatieri’s evocative setting and Flanigan’s stylishly restrained acting. Together, they bring a measure of pathos to the character of disillusioned Charlotte, as she cajoles and berates her weak, philandering husband. Lady Macbeth was written for Flanigan after Pasatieri’s return to opera—announced by the revision of Before Breakfast —and premiered in 2008. It is a conflation of several of Lady Macbeth’s major speeches into a single entity. The warmly mellifluous setting for voice and piano is strangely incongruous, given her sinister character and the topic of usurpation and murder. It seems to reflect her state of mind rather than being an expression of her machinations. The result is a sympathetic portrayal of this monstrous lady, an odd and rather refreshing novelty. Flanigan seconds this impression with her thoughtful portrayal.

Joseph Illick, a frequent collaborator of both Flanigan and Pasatieri, presides benevolently as conductor and pianist. The sound is open and well balanced. Things are less than ideal only in a few particulars. While Flanigan’s diction is superlative at lower volumes, she so completely loses the consonants at full voice that one must often follow the libretto to catch all of the words. She is also rather stretched by some exposed high passages of Lady Macbeth , so that the normally attractive bright timbre of her softer singing becomes acid-etched and a bit unstable. Such is the conviction with which she sings these roles, however, that these are minor distractions. She takes two wildly disparate characters—a weak victimized wife and the greatest theatrical virago ever created—and rivets our attention on their dilemmas by the sheer force of her vocal personality. It is terrific musical theater and warmly recommended.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Before Breakfast by Thomas Pasatieri
Performer:  Joseph Illick (Piano), Lauren Flanigan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Joseph Illick
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Change
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Notes: Composition written: USA (1978).
Composition revised: USA (2002). 
Lady Macbeth by Thomas Pasatieri
Performer:  Joseph Illick (Piano), Lauren Flanigan (Soprano)
Conductor:  Joseph Illick
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Voices of Change
Written: USA 

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