Rodney Gilfrey in Recital
RODNEY GILFREY, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, 4/16/99

For many of us, Rodney Gilfrey is that wonderful piece of eye candy with rippling muscles and no shirt who acted well and did some singing as Stanley in Previn's Streetcar at the beginning of the season.  Others of us know him also as Demetrius in the Met's presentation of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream last season.  Still others had the good fortune to enjoy him in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at SFO In Europe, he has done a wide variety of baritone roles.  After tonight's solo recital debut at Weill Hall, New Yorkers would love to hear him sing some of the roles that Europe has been enjoying for the past several years.

Mr. Gilfrey presented a rather unique program, consisting exclusively of French and American material.  The first group was a set of 17th and 18th century arias and songs by Rameau, Lully and De La Garde.  This writer was immediately struck by the perfection of his French diction and the authenticity of his delivery, including the baroque ornamentation . . . as well as his ease at creating a mood with a simple gesture or pose.  The drama or comedy, however, were mostly expressed in the words.

The first half was concluded by two groups of songs, five by Gabriel Fauré and three by Maurice Ravel.  The second half consisted of three groups of American songs, Three Gothic Ballads by John Duke, on texts by English poet John Heath-Stubbs, Blue Mountain Ballads, four Tennessee Williams settings by expatriate novelist-composer, Paul Bowles, and four songs by Ricky Ian Gordon set to texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay, e.e. cummings, and W. B Yeats.  Mr. Gordon, a gifted composer who has provided songs for such artists as Renée Fleming and Teresa Stratas, was roundly applauded by both performers and audience.

Throughout, Mr. Gilfrey was most ably partnered by conductor/pianist, Grant Gershon, whose virtuosity and expressiveness were used to support the singer, and thereby create a recital that was greater than the sum of its parts.

After the written program was exhausted, Messrs. Gilfrey and Gershon were most generous with encores, also French and American, ranging from Debussy, through Gershwin, to Ives.  The highly enthusiastic audience was most reluctant to allow the two performers to leave the stage.  Also during this part of the performance, Gilfrey explained his expertise with French repertory: he studied six years with French baritone Martial Singher who sang the premiere performances of the Debussy Villon ballads.

I must close this article with a bit of advice:  if Rodney Gilfrey ever sings near where you live, make sure you attend, whether it's opera, oratorio or recital. Not only will Mr. Gilfrey's performance provide you with both aural and aesthetic pleasure, but it will also enrich your soul.

Howard in Brooklyn

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Copyright:  © 1999 Howard Levin

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