Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
“I’ve travelled all around the world doing this (singing opera) and found out that most White people hate opera just as much as Black people do,” stated soprano Angela Brown, tongue-in-cheek.
Presenting “Opera… from a Sistah’s Point of View,” Brown’s mix of arias and conversation was ever so engaging and sometimes knee-slapping humorous when speaking to the large audience that Thursday night.
However, it was when Brown let loose with her powerfully crystal clear voice that there was no doubt that a great artist was performing in the house. Her dynamic vocal control effortlessly flew between quiet valleys and gargantuan mountains full of grace and beauty.
Brown’s interesting banter between songs was both informative and enlightening. She brought to life vivid back-stories to particular operas by Richard Wagner and Giacomo Puccini to enhance the understanding of the arias she performed.
But it was during the collaborative pieces with the brilliant composer Richard Danielpour (who was in the audience) that Brown’s stories took on a life of their own.
In one of the two, Brown explained that she and Danielpour were sitting at an outdoor café discussing a compositional project when Maya Angelou’s name came up in the conversation. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to combine Angelou’s poetry to the score for Brown to sing?” was the thought of the moment. And right then and there, Danielpour picked up his phone and gave the three-time Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize winning poet a call.
The work, “A Woman’s Life,” was the highlight of the evening where Brown’s heart, mind and voice were spiritually fused together in her soulful execution of the masterful composition’s seven movements.
Brown’s musical accompanist was the gifted pianist Kelleen Strutz, who easily coaxed all the right notes from the Steinway concert grand piano. It was evident from the first note that the two of them weren’t musical strangers and had collaborated in recital settings before.
It was the Don and Judy McCormack Endowed Visiting artist-Scholar Residency that brought Angela Brown to Skidmore College for a week-long interaction with students and faculty. For those not a part of the Skidmore community, it was a rare and wonderful opportunity to see and hear one of opera’s young and vital sopranos up close and personal. And for free!