Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Richmond Symphony

Steven Smith conducting
with Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano
Nov. 9, Richmond CenterStage

Kate Lindsey, the most promising operatic singer to come out of Richmond in a generation, charmed a hometown crowd in a program of French opera and operetta arias that played to her strengths as a voice and personality.

The 32-year-old mezzo-soprano, born and reared in Chesterfield County, these days works on a professional circuit of major opera companies and orchestras. Lindsey is especially in demand for “trouser” roles as boys or young men, such as the composer in Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos,” which she performed over the summer at Britain’s Glyndebourne Opera.

In this homecoming concert with the Richmond Symphony, Lindsey applied fluid, flexible and finely nuanced tone to “Enfin, je suis ici” (“Finally, I am here”) from Massenet’s “Cendrillon” and “Death of Ophelia” from Berlioz’s “Tristia.”

The balance of her program was lighter or more folk-inflected fare – four of Canteloube’s “Songs of the Auvergne,” a sampler of arias by Offenbach, and “Shenandoah” as an encore – providing her with several opportunities for theatrics, and well as letting her caress straightfowardly lyrical melodies.

Although she was positioned under the Carpenter Theatre’s proscenium arch, the acoustical “sweet spot” of the hall’s stage, Lindsey’s voice, especially in her low register, did not project as strongly it needed to alongside the orchestra. Conductor Steven Smith kept the instrumentalists in reasonable balance with Lindsey, and several solo players – oboist Gustav Highstein, bassoonist Thomas Schneider, clarinetist Ralph Skiano, cellist Neal Cary, concertmaster Daisuke Yamamoto – shared the spotlight with the singer.

In an onstage conversation with Smith, Lindsey endeared herself to her fellow Richmonders with a homey greeting (“Hey, y’all!”), reminisced about her youth in Chesterfield, and thanked everyone from her parents and teachers to the symphony’s music librarian, Matt Gold.

Smith filled out Lindsey’s French program with three Spanish-accented orchestral staples from French composers: the Prelude to Bizet’s “Carmen,” Debussy’s “IbĂ©ria” and Ravel’s “Alborado del gracioso.” As he has in past concerts, the conductor showed himself to be exceptionally fluent in French repertory, especially in production of orchestral tone color and well-judged dynamics.