Soprano Roberta Alexander and Pianist George Darden

Soprano Roberta AlexanderSoprano Roberta Alexander, who was born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1949, gave a recital at Old Dominion University on November 12, 2007 as part of the Diehn Concert Series in Norfolk, Virginia at Chandler Hall. It was a beautiful experience. It was as if Ms. Alexander invited a few old friends over to her salon for an evening's entertainment. The theme of Femmes Fatale in Music included songs by Haydn, Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti and Mozart, all before intermission.

As one of the world's finest singing actresses she wove a magic spell, creating women characters who seduce men through charm, leading them into compromising or dangerous situations. Her opening selections of recitatives and arias from Scena di Berenice (1795), a vocal cantata by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), demanded a powerful display of emotions. As Berenice's beloved is dying, she declares she will marry another man. The anger of the gods, her noble sentiments, her grief, and her raving, all were displayed in the skill of this singer.

Ms. Alexander explained that she and George Darden, her pianist, always have the best time when they are on stage together though it had been a long time. The sense of fun shared by the performers was contagious. The soft beginning of Piangerò (I shall lament) from G.F. Handel's (1585-1759) Giulio Cesare left room for the emotional expression to blossom. In the spoken introductions between songs she tied it all to the theme. For Son tutta Duolo by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) she explained "the song does not fit the femmes fatale but it is a pretty song. Back on theme there was Parto, Parto from La Clemenza di Tito and Ah Fuggi il Traditor from Don Giovanni, both by W.A. Mozart (1756-1791).

The familiar Habenera from Carmen by Georges Bizet (1838-1875) opened the last half of the program. Then there were art songs by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), Epheu (Ivy) and Die Zeitlose (Meadow Saffron) in which Ms. Alexander's full artistry brought the characters alive though her voice can no longer produce the glorious legato lines that Strauss usually offers the listener. Maurice Ravel's (1875-1937) La Flute Enchantée is a rapturous song with a sense of mystery while Die Lorelei by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is a chilling major drama that unfolds in less than five minutes.

Turning to American opera: a long powerfully played piano introduction allowed time for Ms. Alexander to get into character for Give me Some Music from Samuel Barber's (1910-1981) Anthony and Cleopatra. In this role as perhaps the ultimate femme fatale, our singer was at her most persuasive.

The cabaret song Did You Ever Cross Over to Sneden's was written by Alec Wilder (1907-1980) for Mable Mercer. Ms. Alexander captured the sadness of this nostalgic revisitation to the past, only to give us a totally different, happy mood in the novelty song By Strauss from the pen of George Gershwin (1898-1937). After the words are finished our singer sways to the waltz as the piano plays on.

She closed her program with Ernest Charles' (1895-1984) When I have sung my songs to you as an encore. The message of this love song is that I'll sing no more. It would be a sacrilege to try to share again the love we have shared. Her artistry is so vivid that I experienced it as if she sang to me alone.

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