REVIEW: Dawn Upshaw, soprano Molly Morkoski, Piano
February 14, 2007 Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA 8pm
She walked out on stage, with her bald head, a figure of dignity and joy--joy to be singing once again. She spoke to the audience as she would a friend, apologizing and begging for patience as she cut certain numbers from the program.
But Dawn Upshaw's performance wasn't simply good "for a recent cancer patient," it was downright spiritual. Recovering from cancer and a head cold, to boot, Upshaw graced the audience with pieces as diverse as Stephen Foster's "If You've Only Got a Moustache " to Ruth Crawford Seeger's "White Moon." Upshaw was not a martyr, but instead a witness to her own victory. While frustrated by her own limitations, she knew them (how many people really do?) and carefully selected the pieces that she could sing successfully.
Her power was reserved, but steady. Her work in the lower registers was simply stunning, and she was careful not to push it with the higher notes. Her basic approach to the evening was to do what she could do well, not simply "get through it." Because of this, it was a shorter evening, but an evening of craft and beauty.
Molly Morkoski was a fabulous collaborator. She watched Upshaw with the concern of a friend, but with the respect of a musician. She let Upshaw call the shots and played as if it had been planned that way all along. She graced the audience with a performance of Charles Ives "Alcott" movement from the Concord Sonata. She played with humility, conscious that most of the audience was not there for her, but with a sense that the night was going to be about beauty and the redemptive power of music, from whatever source.
Dawn Upshaw is the consummate performer, but she is also a most sincere artist. She paid tribute to the music as if to say, "thank you for healing me." She ended her program with a number of selections from William Bolcom's Cabaret Songs. Appropriately, her last sung words of the evening were: "...instead of singing Amen, the choir was singing Amor Amor Amor Amor."
Copyright 2007 Rebecca M
(Cross-posted at LiveJournal)