Sunday’s performance of “Contemporary American Favorites” expressed sentiments of poetry and theatrical appeal.
Presented by Oswego State’s music department, Elisabeth Kisselstein performed short operatic pieces written by classic American composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Pianist Rebecca Horning, adjunct professor of the university, accompanied Kisselstein.
Kisselstein achieved a dramatic display in the height of her soprano voice. A range of dynamics and intensity rousted energy and emotion within her performance. Her vocal range proved to be impressive as she sought out the highs and lows of a musical scale, molding it to her desire. The execution was rarely flawed, only receiving a few stumbles and a one-time lyrical error. Her vocal projection was mainly set in a higher range, expelling a forceful and passionate act. Mellow melodic lines were quickly met with abrupt shrilling outbursts. There was never a lack of dynamic range.
Horning’s piano accompaniment clashed well with the intensity of Kisselstein’s vocals. When in many ways the vocal approach was very similar in each movement, the eccentricity of the piano never matched itself with familiarity. An array of dissonance led listeners to a tension of build up. These atonal finger acrobatics rarely resolved until the end of each movement, even then leaving the audience lacking a definitive cadence or melodic resolution. Each piece displayed tension and conflict.
The performance as a whole only lasted around 45 minutes in length. It was a compilation of several short pieces written by composers such as Aaron Copland, Ernst Bacon, Howard Boatwright, John Duke, Lee Hoiby, Lori Laitman, Libby Larson and Leonard Bernstein. These mini-operas contained a great deal of poetic substance and theatrical eloquence. Kisselstein used dramatics as part of her routine. She remained standing in front of the grand piano, yet used frequent hand gestures and motions to create emphasis. She poured emotion from her bouts of acting by crying, laughing and working off-the-wall antics into her song.
The audience left with mixed feelings. Some enjoyed it very much, while others lacked the aesthetic to appreciate such an art form. By no means is it modern art, but a fantastic display of talent.