SongFest South Florida: Sounds of the Americas in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, March 4 and 5
The Josephine S. Leiser Opera Center and Steinway Piano Gallery Miami present the season’s third pair of performances in the free concert series, “SongFest Recital Series.” The program will be heard at Steinway Piano Gallery Miami in Coral Gables on Saturday, March 4, at 7:30 pm and at the Leiser Center in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, March 5 at 6:00 pm.
The theme of the March concerts is “Sounds of the Americas.” Featured are three members of the Florida Grand Opera Young Artist Program: soprano Sarah Payne, baritone Benjamin C. Taylor and bass-baritone Alex Soare. The program, devised with an eye toward South Florida’s rich and diverse Latino communities, comes just two weeks prior to the March 18opening of Jorge Martín’s powerful opera Before Night Falls at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Before Night Falls, based on Reinaldo Arenas’s acclaimed memoir, is a work that gives a potent depiction of the Cuban exile experience.
Featured in “Sounds of the Americas” are some of the most evocative and melodious songs of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela. Sarah Payne offers two excerpts from Heitor Villa-Lobos’s famous Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, made famous by a brilliant array of sopranos, from Bidu Sayão to Renée Fleming. Audiences eager to hear Before Night Falls will have the chance to hear two numbers by Jorge Martín, “La soga” (The Rope), performed by Payne, and “Pilbroch” from the cycle Plundered Hearts, sung by Benjamin C. Taylor. Alex Soare performs two songs by Brazil’s Waldemar Henrique, “Uirapuru” and “Abaluaiê,” as well as Astor Piazzolla’s classic “Los pajaros perdidos.”
The program also features a nod to France, with “Quand je fus pris au pavilion,” composed by Venezuelan-born Reynaldo Hahn, and well-known to listeners, because of mezzo-soprano Susan Graham’s peerless recording. Also included are works by Carlos Guastavino, Jaime Leon, and Violeta Parra.
North America is represented by “Shaman,” composed by one of the U.S.’ leading opera composers, Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking, Moby Dick), the Negro spiritual “Steal Away to Jesus,” and two of Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s greatest pop meditations, “Both Sides Now” and “A Case of You.”
The pianist for the entire program is Paul Kovacovic, who takes the stage for a solo, “Evocation” by Haitian composer Ludovic Lamothe.
Susan T. Danis, General Director and CEO of Florida Grand Opera, comments, “As excitement builds for opening night of Before Night Falls, we are pleased to offer this beautiful program featuring Sounds of the Americas to our diverse South Florida community.”
Sarah Payne made her FGO debut as Clotilde in last season’s Norma. Other recent roles include The Governess in The Turn of the Screw at Miami Summer Music Festival and Monteverdi’s Poppea at FIU Opera.
Benjamin C. Taylor has performed as a Resident Artist at Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and as a Young Artist at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. This season at FGO he has sung Le Dancaïre in Carmen and A Captain in Eugene Onegin.
Alex Soare has appeared at FGO this season as Zuniga in Carmen and as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin. Next month he appears as Count Horn in the company’s production of Verdi’s classic, A Masked Ball.
The fourth and final SongFest recital of Florida Grand Opera’s 2016-17 season is “A Night at Court,” featuring music that could have been heard in the court of A Masked Ball‘s King Gustav III, taking place on March 31 at the Leiser Center and April 1 at Steinway Piano Gallery Miami.