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The Juilliard School Presents "Juilliard Songfest", Songs of Charles Baudelaire, at Alice Tully Hall
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The Juilliard School Presents "Juilliard Songfest", Songs of Charles Baudelaire, at Alice Tully Hall

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The Juilliard School

Juilliard Songfest
(Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts)
Songs of Charles Baudelaire
(Read about "Les Fleurs du Mal")

Christine Price, Soprano
Virginie Verrez, Mezzo-Soprano
Eric Jurenas, Countertenor
Miles Mykkanen, Tenor
Austin Smith, Actor
Brian Zeger, Curator and Pianist

At Alice Tully Hall
Lincoln Center

Media Relations: Gloria Gottschalk

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 4, 2014

Tonight’s concert, according to pianist and curator, Brian Zeger’s program notes, was the fourth in an annual series. His concept was to look at eight different composers’ takes on Charles Baudelaire’s 19th century poetry, compiled in “Les Fleurs du Mal”, or “The Flowers of Evil”. He offers thanks to Denise Massé, coach for French language and culture, for this concert. I had studied Baudelaire’s poems, “Les Fleurs du Mal”, in college, and hoped to hear “La Chevelure” set to music, maybe next time. Mr. Zeger and the organizers from Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts organized tonight’s Songfest into two performances of songs, each with a reconfiguration of performers. In Part One, poems “On the World” were sung by Virginie Verrez, mezzo-soprano, Eric Jurenas, countertenor, and Christine Price, soprano. In Part Two, poems “On Love” were sung by Ms. Price, Ms. Verrez, and Miles Mykkanen, tenor. During both Parts, a very vibrant Austin Smith, actor, recited the upcoming poem, dramatically, in English, except in one instance, when the poem was already translated in song.

Some of the poems were sung (always in perfect, French enunciation) with surreal angst, and some with melodic yearning. In Part One, Mr. Jurenas’ rare, high pitched countertenor solos were ethereal, especially in “L’Albatross” (The Albatross), composed by Ernest Chausson. “Chant d’automne” (Autumnal), composed by Gabriel Fauré, was imbued by Mr. Jurenas with vocal animation, following an expansive piano introduction, by Mr. Zeger. Ms. Verrez is a striking performer with extraordinary stage presence. Her vocal talent, as well, is spellbinding, at times. She opened tonight’s concert with her rendition of Baudelaire’s “L’Invitation au voyage” (Invitation to the Voyage), composed by Henri Duparc. In addition to deep, exquisite tones, there was some dissonance and a sense of foreboding. “La Vie antérieure” (Previous Existence), also by Henri Duparc, and also sung by Ms. Verrez, included brief, fervent piano interludes, with an elongated piano solo after Ms. Verrez’ finale. Also noteworthy were Ms. Verrez’ extension of final notes, held endlessly with vocal fortitude. Ms. Price sang one poem in English, in Part One, “Evening Twilight”, by Daron Aric Hagen, with lovely, crisp tones.

Part Two began with another musical interpretation of “L’Invitation au voyage”, this time composed by Alexander Gretchaninov and sung by Ms. Price. Gretchaninov’s composition was tonally deeper than Duparc’s, and more melodic, with piano refrains. Ms. Price has a lilting, lovely voice. Miles Mykkanen, tenor, sang three poem songs, with a spectacular tonal range, including “Le Jet d’eau” (The Fountain). This sung poem, in very, romantically imbued French, within the selection of love poems, included (translated) “…an echo of the ecstasy that was this evening’s overwhelming gift of love”. As the Songfest program includes the French and English translations for the fifteen poems sung tonight, the audience can review the incomparable, sensual passages written by Baudelaire well over a century ago. Ms. Price sang the dark poem, “Le Revenant” (Incubus), composed by Paul Hindemith, with outsized personality and dramatization, such as (translated)… “When the morning whitens you find no one beside you: the place cold all day…”. Toward the closing of this program, Ms. Price was followed by Mr. Mykkanen and Ms. Verrez, singing, respectively, “Je t’adore” (Urn of Stilled Sorrows) and “Le Balcon” (The Balcony). At this point, I had stopped taking notes, just to absorb the refined, compelling tones. Audience accolades followed, well deserved, all around.

Virginie Verrez, Mezzo-Soprano,
Brian Zeger, Pianist
Juilliard's Baudelaire Songfest
Courtesy of Michael DiVito

Miles Mykkanen, Tenor
Brian Zeger, Pianist
Juilliard's Baudelaire Songfest
Courtesy of Michael DiVito

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at