In review: Jamie Barton at Wigmore HallReview
Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and pianist James Baillieu certainly know how to begin a recital at Wigmore Hall, filling it with the warm, bold sounds of Joaquín Turina’s Homenaje a Lope de Vega. Barton’s first phrase was nothing short of gorgeous (and ballsy to boot).
Unrestrained, yet without sacrificing beauty of sound, the three Turina songs set the tone for an undeniably well-done recital from the pair. Barton earned herself the right to be amiable and funny onstage (“I’m at Wigmore Hall!”), during what she called a “love-fest” of some of her and Baillieu’s favourite selections of art song repertoire. Their picks of Brahms Lieder, Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, and sets by Charles Ives and Jean Sibelius all seemed to give Barton the room her voice craves (and suited Baillieu’s grounded, symphonic sound at the piano); yet they never missed an opportunity for subtlety.
Barton’s big smile is infectious, and her singing is totally satisfying. She left us heavy in our seats during Brahms’ “Unbewegte laue Luft,” and Dvořák’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” and she seemed to be making a good case for a definitive performance of Turina’s Homenaje and the Sibelius songs. Even the songs by Ives - admittedly, not our favourite composer - conjured up a real world of American warmth, with tight hugs and loud conversations.
Baillieu, too, sang on the stage; he wove in and out of his roles as soloist and partner, a feat made even more impressive when Barton told us that Baillieu had spent the greater portion of the 24 hours leading up to their recital in the hospital (“A bit of an issue with a walnut,” was how she put it).
Between sets, there was nothing but applause for the two artists. They gave two encores: “Never Never Land” from Peter Pan, and Ernest Charles’ “When I Have Sung My Songs”. Responding to a listener’s cry for “Eboli!” Barton hilariously laughed back, “YOU sing Eboli!”
It’s notable that Barton never stepped into the world of opera for this recital - though it would have been a sure hit if she had. It’s exciting when a singer has enough tools and expertise at her disposal, and still earns ovations without the slam-dunk of a Verdi aria.
Surely, readers, you didn’t think we wouldn’t have a great time with Jamie Barton, did you?