A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The vocal recital transformed

Jamie Barton and Kathleen Kelly with
TOI's Mark Craig after the concert in Taos 

Last week in Taos, I heard what I think was my favorite recital/concert ever. Taos Opera Institute (TOI) presented mezzo Jamie Barton with pianist Kathleen Kelly at the Taos Center for the Arts. The program was wide ranging yet never incoherent. It included German, French, and Italian sections, with the duo providing friendly, inviting commentary rather than formal program notes. This gave the event a welcoming, cabaret feel, which drew in the audience in a way that I've never seen in a program that had the likes of Purcell, Schubert, and Mahler. The closing English group of Libby Larsen and Jake Heggie songs had us enraptured in a way which said "and now let's add the extra layer of instantaneous, immediate comprehension to go along with the musical and vocal beauty and perfect ensemble supplied by their earlier foreign language selections. Songs in English should always provide that... like adding a wondrous fourth dimension.  I arrived at the concert something of a jaded skeptic and left with a sense that Barton and Kelly have shown us how to transform the old "art song recital," into something vibrant, vital, and fun.

Bravo to TOI for bringing this program up the mountain.