Barbara Hardgrave: “Journeys in Life”

NEW PALTZ, NY — Mezzo soprano Barbara Hardgrave, known throughout the Hudson Valley for her solo recitals and as a featured performer with Gilbert & Sullivan Musical Theatre Company, Rhinebeck Theatre Society, and the Bardavon, will present a song recital on May 9 at 8pm in McKenna Theatre. The concert, titled “Journeys in Life” is part of the SUNY New Paltz Tuesday Evening Concert Series.

An exuberant and generous musician, Hardgrave performs works by Hugo Wolf, Robert Schumann, Maurice Ravel, and Aaron Copland. She will be accompanied by pianist Terry Decima, and guest artists William Treat, flute, and Susan Seligman, cello. Hardgrave performs six songs on the theme of journeying by Hugo Wolf. Wolf referred to his songs as “poems for voice and piano,” a telling description of the importance he placed on a complete fusion of music and text-words and music are inextricably bound in Wolf’s settings. The songs, from various collections, include “Fussreise” (Foot Journey), “In der Frühe” (In the Morning), “Heimweh” (Longing for Home), “Auf einer Wanderüng” (On a Journey), “Der Musikant” (The Musician), and “Ich hab’in Penna einen Liebsten Wohnen” (I Have a Love Who Lives in Penna).

Robert Schumann’s “Frauen Liebe und Leben” (A Woman’s Life and Love) is a haunting song cycle that recalls the journey of a young woman from the first blossom of romance, through marriage, motherhood, and the death of her beloved.

The elegant and subtle melodies of Maurice Ravel are reflected in “Chansons Madécasses.” With its crisp, dissonant harmonies-the hallmark of Ravel’s song style-this song cycle has a folk-like quality that is influenced by medieval and exotic music. William Treat, principle piccolo for the West Point Band, and Susan Seligman, cellist with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String Quartet, join Hardgrave for this enchanting work.

For many, Aaron Copland is the quintessential American composer, and his song cycle “Twelve Songs of Emily Dickinson” occupies an esteemed place in the American vocal repertoire. Written in 1949-50, and exploring themes of nature, death, life, and eternity, the songs are emotional and dramatic, skillfully crafted, and encompass a wide spectrum of musical expression.

Barbara Hardgrave has performed leading mezzo-soprano roles in operas such as “Carmen,” “Madame Butterfly,” and Blitzstein’s “Regina” with Opera Fort Collins in Colorado. Locally she has enjoyed contralto roles in Gilbert & Sullivan Musical Theater Company productions including Katisha, Buttercup, and Mad Margaret, and has also played Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” and Mrs. Peachum in “The Threepenny Opera” with the company. Hardgrave has specialized in art song literature during her tenure as voice professor at SUNY at New Paltz. She has premiered two chamber operas composed for her by Robert Starer on texts by Gail Godwin (“The Other Voice” and “Mary Magdalen at the Tomb”) and she can be heard on the Soundspells Productions compact disc of “The Proscenium,” a one-act chamber opera written for her by composer Meyer Kupferman. She will perform the role of Suzuki in a Bardavon Opera House/Hudson Valley Philharmonic production of “Madame Butterfly” in early June.

Terry Decima is head vocal coach at New England Conservatory in Boston, where he also teaches courses in Singer’s Diction, German Song Literature, and conducts master classes for singers and pianists.

Tickets to the May 9th recital are $5 general admission, $4 senior citizens, and $3 students. They are available at the door one hour prior to the performance. For additional information or directions to the theatre please call 257-3872.