Mary Charlotte Elia's Devotion to German Lieder
Sunday, November 16, 2003 Wycliffe Presbyterian Church
With George Stone at the piano, Charlotte Elia gave an excellent recital.
In an era when a recital program is made up of a set of French or Spanish songs, German lieder,
some American songs and some lighter fare to close, Ms. Elia continues to follow her muse.
This is the third recital we have reviewed here in 2003 in which she sang only
German lied. There was a good audience of appreciative parishioners and other community listeners.
The program began with two of Mozart's songs from the
beginning of German lied and concluded with two sets of songs by Hugo Wolf, written when
the romantic lied had reached its rich fulness. In between there were songs by Franz Schubert,
Johannes Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann. (If you'd like more information about these, see
Issue #23 Liedermorgen at Virginia Wesleyan and Issue
#27 The Many Moods of Hugo Wolf).
As Steve says "Her interpretations grow deeper each time I hear her."
The program booklet was lovely with rich graphic designs in a
soft mauve color with full text and translations. The reception was lively with very good food.
George Stone, Miss Elia's accompanist, does a masterful job
in presenting this difficult repertory. His artistry shines especially in the Hugo Wolf where
the piano often has an independent solo which underscores the sung words. Mr. Stone has undergraduate
and masters degrees from East Carolina University in piano performance. He
teaches applied piano at Virginia Wesleyan College where he has served as accompanist for the
choral program. He also teaches at the Chesapeake campus of Tidewater Community College
and accompanies at a local school and church. Most impressive to us is his great
skill as a lieder performer in these solo recitals.
Ms. Elia has a music degree from Virginia Wesleyan College, has
performed in major choral works in our area and is director of music ministries at Wycliffe
Presbyterian Church. In conversation about art song in Tidewater
last winter, Charlotte said to us "I'd rather spend my time learning lied and creating
recital programs of German songs than anything." She meant it and we listeners are
Mary Charlotte Elia's Mostly American Recital
November 21, 2004, Wycliffe Presbyterian Church, Virginia Beach. Departing from her series of German lieder recitals, Mary Charlotte Elia, with George Stone at the piano, gave an excellent recital of mostly American songs. There was no text sheet in the program but that was no problem. Her diction was clear and the impact of the words were immediate and moving as she sang through A Simple Song (from Mass) by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), Three Odes of Solomon by Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) from which the program title "As the Wings of Doves" was taken and The Divine Image (from Blake's Songs) by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).
She closed the first set with The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation by Henry Purcell (1659-1695). In the song the Virgin calls for the angel Gabriel. The cry became progressively desperate as it is repeated, unsettling and wonderfully dramatic. Ms. Elia's soprano voice is taking on a darker hue as she moves into her late twenties and this gives her a richer palette of sound and greater power in her expressiveness.
Two American vocal classics filled to the brim the rest of the program: the complete Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) and three selections from Old American Songs by Aaron Copeland (1900-1990). It is a great pleasure to watch the artistry of Ms. Elia grow and change and her generosity of offering the community at least three recitals per year is exceptional and commendable.
Mezzo-soprano Mary Charlotte Elia with Pianist Sharon Foxwell
present a Classical Art Song Recital and More
Hofheimer Theater at VWC, August 22, 2015
Review by John Campbell
The virtual art song society became a reality on Saturday evening when our friend Charlotte Elia returned to the stage in a solo art song recital titled “My Next Mistake.” The title is borrowed from a line in a Taylor Swift song and provoked a smile long before she sang. More about this later.
From sunny, 16th century Florence, Italy came the opening song, Amarilli, mia bella (Amaryllis, My Beautiful One) by Giulio Caccini (c.1546-1618) with an expressive vocal line. Each repetition of the beloved’s name has a different ornamentation. In the 10 years or so since her last recital, Ms. Elia’s voice has become richer and darker and was scintillating in this truly great early art song. Paired in the opening Italian set was Se tu m’ami (If you love me) by Alessandro Parisotti (1853-1913). Here the singer becomes the shepherdess, a charming coquette who will not confine herself to only one lover. But this turns around in Caro mio ben (My Dear Beloved) by Giuseppe Giordani (1751-1798) where the lover bemoans the casualness with which she is treated. The power in the voice becomes visible as the passion builds in the high, penultimate phrases.
Ms. Elia, who is an exceptionally gifted German scholar, devoted one half of the program to a unique set of German songs that delved deeply into expressions of romantic love. Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) Suleika I, D720 and Suleika II, D718 were published as part of the writings of Goethe but were actually written by Marianne von Wellemer and taken from a 14-month correspondence between the two. The music is vibrant with life, desire and passion, with messages carried by the east wind in the first song and the west in the second. The voice caressed the word “caressingly,” expressing serious, adult passion that builds throughout the first Suleika and becomes lighter in mood in the second.
The singer and pianist did not sip water, leave and return to the stage between sets or even pause very long. Displaying amazing vocal stamina with continual support by Ms. Foxwell, five of German Romanticism’s greatest hits came next. Du bist wie eine Blume (You are like a flower) by Robert Schumann (1810-1856) is a lovely tune that engages heart strings and was followed by Die Mainacht by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). The singer exults in seeing the smiling face of the beloved, only to end with a tear, fearing that there is no such soul on earth. The singer wipes away that tear in Gustav Mahler’s Aus! Aus! (Out! Out!). He is off to war and raring to go. She is concerned with his never returning and delays his going by threatening to go to a convent right away. Singing both parties in this dialogue, Ms. Elia’s ability as a singing actress was fabulous.
The beauty of her sound in Hugo Wolf’s Verborgenheit (Seclusion) was able to fully bloom in the lush Zueignung (Dedication) by Richard Strauss. So full and satisfying!
Now to the notion of a virtual art song society. Back in 2003 when the now long-defunct Virginia Art Song Society had lost its way, Charlotte wrote to us that our e-publication Artsongupdate.org was a virtual art song society because of the online community we were cultivating.
Events came full circle when Ms. Elia solicited aid in producing “My Next Mistake.” Her goal in raising money through online crowdfunding was to offer her audience a free concert. A contribution as low as $10 bought a raffle ticket for a chance to pick a song; a $100 contribution bypassed the raffle to choose the song. She was not, as she said at the recital, surprised given her circle of friends that some unusual selections came up.
For many years I have considered Aretha Franklin’s First Snow in Kokomo as a contemporary art song (you can hear it on Youtube). As Charlotte sang I had an emotional high point with lots of tears. Sharon Foxwell at the piano created the voices of the other instruments—that bass riff came through very clearly. After sharing my enthusiasm for this song with my nephew, he came up with this quote from actor and former record producer David Monk’s website Stargayzing.com, “10 Songs Aretha Franklin Wrote That You’ve (Probably) Never Heard:” “Helping even one person discover First Snow in Kokomo [from Aretha’s album “Young, Gifted and Black”] for the first time-or even re-discover it should be considered an act of public service. Enjoy.” I did and I do. Thanks for the opportunity, Charlotte and Sharon.
Three other contemporary popular songs let us experience the full range of Ms. Elia’s talent: The first pop song was Chicago's You're the Inspiration. It was chosen by Donna Dillon Stockburger and is special to her and her husband. First Snow in Kokomo came next. The third song was Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins) from the movie Top Gun, chosen by Jonathan Tapscott who won the song raffle from the fundraising campaign. Deborah Carr arranged the saxophone part for it, and Corey Martin, a sophomore at James Madison University, played. The final pop song was Blank Space by Taylor Swift. Yes, she wrote “Look at that face, you look like my next mistake…” “But I got a blank space baby
and I'll write your name.”
Returning to her roots, Ms. Elia closed the recital with Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh'.
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