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Sunday, September 8
REVIEWED BY ELIZABETH BOUMAN
American mezzo-soprano Tessa Romano, recently appointed classical voice lecturer at the University of Otago's music department, presented her Inaugural Faculty Recital with accompanist Prof Terence Dennis yesterday, in Marama Hall.
Romano holds a doctorate in vocal performance and pedagogy, and has an enduring passion for learning new languages and cultures.
The programme reflected this, beginning with five songs from Edvard Grieg's Haugtussa, a song cycle about a Norwegian goat-herder. Romano has a good command of Norwegian, and her stage presence and outstanding story-telling body language gave the songs great dramatic impact and emotional interpretation.
The third song Killingdans /Kid's Dance was full of animation and humour, with words meaning "light-on-toes, whoops-a-daisy and tra-lala''.
Dennis was exemplary in accompanying throughout the entire recital, with his determination and skill enabling a pianoforte to fulfil the role of orchestra. I definitely heard the babbling brook in No. 5 At Gjaetle Brook.
French repertoire came with Poulenc - A sa guitar and Metamorphoses, a song-cycle to poems of Louise de Vilmorin. Six Mirabai Songs 1982 by American John Harbison were sensuous devotional texts with Hindu origins, and Romano's exceptional capacity for story-telling enlivened every phrase.
The song cycle by New Zealand composer Ross Harris Wild Daisies 1994, was well-received, being in English and interpreted with clarity of diction and subtle humour.
Acknowledging the Berlioz 150th Commemorative Year, a 20-minute cameo of his Cleopatre - Scene lyrique ended the recital by these dynamic musicians.
Romano draws you in to her performance, regardless of language. Her intonation and diction is superb, though classification as a mezzo is misleading. There was no sign of deep rich mezzo quality, rather a pleasing tone of "low-soprano'', beautifully even across the entire register and technically faultless in all she presented.