I went to Juilliard on 9/29/17 and heard a recital by baritone Christopher Dylan Herbert. My friend Jamie van Eyck was singing on the second half - - we're friends from Wisconsin, we saw each other a few times when she was living in New York. She now teaches at Baylor University in Waco, TX. More about her when I get to her!
Herbert has a handsome voice and is a very intelligent singer. He opened with a set of Haydn songs, which were my favorite songs on the program. Herbert's singing was in the tradition of the great Lieder singers: specific, full of precise communication of the text, but not fussy, precious, or manicured, still plenty of SINGING going on. The second song, "Gebet zu Gott," was fantastic, his voice just rolled out. The fourth song (I'll list the full program below), "The Wanderer," was the finest hour for his pianist, Chris Reynolds - - he played with drama and delicacy. He and Herbert had a wonderful rapport throughout, that's always a joy to hear.
Next was a set of three Mahler songs from *Des knaben Wunderhorn.* The first song ("Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht?") gave me chills, it was so exciting and gorgeous. There were long runs in the voice part and Herbert sang them clearly, effortlessly, and full of expression. Definitely his most impressive singing of the night. The second song ("Der Schwildwache Nachtlied") had a big climax, they really delivered that. The last song ("Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen") was not a very interesting song. It was a dud to end the set, and a real thud of a dud to end the first half.
Now it might sound like I'm being petty, but I don't think I am. He used music for the entire recital, and he looked at it quite a lot. More in the Haydn (I would say about 50%) than in the Mahler (more like 15%), but when he looked at it, he was really looking at it, even during the piano interludes. It didn't appear to effect his singing, but it sure got in the way of his performance. It becomes a barrier between the performer and the audience.
He's a doctoral candidate at Juilliard, and he said this was his third doctoral recital. It seems to me that at this point he should be singing from memory! This was not (by any stretch of the imagination) an overly long program, and he wasn't singing abstract or overly intellectual music. I don't see why his teacher would let him get away with this. On a deeper level, I know as a singer that when you memorize a song, you learn it and perform it on a deeper level. It belongs to you, it no longer belongs on the page.
Herbert and Reynolds were joined by Jamie and pianist Timothy Long on the second half, for Bernstein's *Arias and Barcarolles.* A few of these songs could veer off to the Land of Cute, and I was relieved that they didn't go there. They performed them with wit and style.
I hadn't heard Jamie in years - - I hadn't heard her since she was a soprano! She rebranded herself as a mezzo a few years ago, so I was especially curious to hear her. Her voice sounds the same, the same beautiful, distinctive voice, it just has a different center of gravity.
The fifth and sixth songs were the highlights, for me. Jamie sang "Greeting" with warmth, tenderness, and a profound beauty and sincerity. Herbert sang "Oif Mayn Khas'neh" with verve and plenty of drama. I wouldn't know good Yiddish from bad Yiddish, but his Yiddish sounded real good to me! The last song was lovely, it had the singers humming rather than singing words. I had the tune stuck in my head all the way home.
I took a selfie with Jamie backstage. Isn't she gorgeous?