Coffee Lady Sings Really Well

On Friday evening, August 22, I attended a recital at Epworth-Euclid United Methodist Church by soprano Andrea Chenoweth, otherwise known to me as the coffee lady at Starbucks. (Starbucks is a haven for various artistic types—the company pays benefits) I’ve known for a while that she is a singer, but I had never heard her before. Her Starbucks colleagues have been pressing flyers into customers’ hands for the past couple of weeks. It was a Friday night, and I didn’t have any big plans, so I decided to go. A lot of other people must have had the same thought, because there was an excellent turnout, including other Starbucks employees and customers and various Cleveland musical types.

And boy, was I glad that I did. She was terrific. Ms. Chenoweth has been invited to compete in a voice competition in The Netherlands in September, so this recital was a kind of “public tryout” of the repertoire that she will sing in the competition.

It was an extremely varied program: Handel, Bach, Mozart, Delibes, Rachmaninov, Charpentier, Richard Strauss, a couple of American art songs by John Duke and Lee Hoiby, and Anne Truelove’s scena “No Word from Tom” from The Rake’s Progress, by Stravinsky.

Most of the repertoire was standard (e.g. “Alleluia” from Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate; “Ach, ich fühl’s” from The Magic Flute), but there were some real finds: “Chère nuit” by Alfred Bachelet, a totally forgotten late-19th century French composer, and an aria from an opera-in-progress by Cleveland composer Monica Houghton, “Oh, Will, come see…” Ms. Houghton (who was present for the recital) has written a simple but achingly beautiful aria about love and loss. The Big Bonanza, the opera from which the excerpt was taken (yes, a “western” opera) has just received it’s first full musical read-through. Ms. Chenoweth was one of the performers in that read-through. Probably the best work of the evening was the Stravinsky scene. Ms. Chenoweth was in full command of the various moods that the character Anne goes through during the ten minutes of the aria.

Ms. Chenoweth has a bright, clear lyric soprano, with excellent flexibility and capability in the Baroque coloratura works. There is a definite ring with her voice. It would be nice to hear her in an acoustic more amenable than that of the Epworth-Euclid sanctuary.

The accompanist for the recital was Eric Charnofsky, the director of music at Epworth-Euclid, and on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He gave excellent and deferential support.

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