Jane Archibald: more than the sum of all those notes
The recital program that Jane Archibald brought to the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre this week was clean and dense, an unfettered glance at her instrument. The light-filled recital space is notoriously nerve-wracking for a performer, as though the environment, though filled with eager listeners, is brittle and exposed.
With pianist Liz Upchurch, Archibald broke through that barrier of making the first sound with the self-reflection found in Purcell's Sweeter than roses and It music be the food of love. An immediate, intimate connection had been made, and Archibald swiftly took us through crystalline Debussy, elastic Strauss, and a giddy Der Hirt auf dem Felsen with clarinetist Dominic Desautels.
Desautels created a bit of magic with his first note of Schubert, dovetailing the piano's set-up note with an otherworldly sound that came out of nothing. He was really moving to watch. He seemed to cater his playing to the subtleties of Archibald's voice, even making his clarinet speak some text in the metaphorical margins of Schubert's score.
With an abriged version of the Brentano Lieder, Archibald delivered some Richard Strauss that was essentially perfect. It's easy to understand why some of the soprano's fans are firmly convinced that Strauss' music is her ultimate vocation. There's a womanly curve to the way she sings coloratura, and a kind of pliable agility that suits Strauss' stretchy leaps and twisting runs. She ended with "Amor", and made it sound all too easy.
In Toronto this month, Archibald is earning cheers and ovations for her singing of Konstanze in the COC's current production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail. With this recital, scheduled between her mainstage performances, she seemed to take the opportunity to tell her audience that her artistry is greater than a large quantity of notes. Coloratura-hungry listeners may have been dissatisfied with her encore, Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh", but Archibald gave us understated beauty while leaving a few tricks up her sleeve; it was as if to say, "if it's pyrotechnics you're after, you'll find them in the Seraglio."