A preview of this week’s Cleveland Orchestra & Chorus concert

Last night I attended the open dress rehearsal for this week’s Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus concert, conducted by chorus director Robert Porco. The program is the Fauré Requiem, Poulenc’s Gloria and Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, based on poems by the English poet George Herbert. The rehearsal was handled more or less as a performance, with a few “clean-ups” after a run-through of each work. The soloists are Heidi Grant-Murphy, American soprano, and Brett Polegato, Canadian baritone.

The concert should be excellent. The Poulenc and Fauré are lush and the chorus sounded (for the most part) quite precise. But the real finds of the concert are the Vaughan Williams (a staple of church choir repertoire but rarely performed in high profile venues such as Severance Hall) and Brett Polegato in the Vaughan Williams. This guy is fantastic–a smooth voice even throughout his range (and unlike some singers at such a rehearsal who “mark”–don’t sing full voice–Polegato sang out so we could hear what the performance would be). Much of the Vaughan Williams lies quite high in the baritone range, and Polegato had the power to be heard over the orchestra. The choral interpolations in the songs are exquisite, and the final choral song “Let all the world in every corner sing” was thrilling. (I should also note that Brett Polegato is quite handsome and sexy, with some of the best hair in the business. He’s got a good hair stylist.)

While we’re talking about looks, although Heidi Grant-Murphy’s voice sounds lovely, it was quite distressing to watch her facial contortions as she sang–screwing up the side of her face. I suppose one could say that a singer does “whatever it takes” to make the sound, but this kind of contortion would seem to be at odds with a more natural and physically comfortable mechanism for singing.

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