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Selected Performance Reviews

RECITALS & CONCERTS:


(San Francisco Performances – Herbst Theater)
“Genaux boasts a vibrant, luxuriant chest voice and plenty of stage presence (and being drop-dead gorgeous certainly doesn't hurt).”

“She brought out a quartet of songs by the remarkable 19th century musical polymath Pauline Viardot and reveled in their harmonic daring, emotional force and dark coloration.

In three Rossini songs, including the familiar ‘Canzonetta spagnuola,’ she unleashed a flood of beautiful throaty sound and pinpoint coloratura.  And the final offerings, including three zarzuela arias and a charming encore of ‘Lili's Song’ from the musical Carnival, found her working the crowd like a seasoned entertainer.”
Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 2005


“If you sing like an angel, with crystalline clarity in four languages; toss off devilish fioritura, melismas, and roulades with effortless grace; have King of Accompanists Craig Rutenberg as your partner; and perform a rich, diverse, fascinating program flawlessly, what do you do for ‘something more’? 

In case of Vivica Genaux's brilliant San Francisco Performances recital tonight in Herbst Theater, the bonus was a fashion show, resulting in an unprecedented burst of applause celebrating the gown she changed into for the second half of the concert.  It was truly spectacular, a floor-length sparkling gown of sequins and diamante, something that would be ‘too much’ on most anybody... but not for Genaux.  The point of both the outfit and of the concert is that this major new star of our time can and does carry off what few artists do.

Fresh from a triumphant run of ‘The Italian Girl in Algiers’ in the War Memorial next door, Genaux came to Herbst to sing Haydn's great concert aria, ‘Arianna a Naxos,’ Carl Loewe's ‘Frauenliebe,’ four songs by Pauline Viardot, three Spanish songs by Rossini, songs by José Serrano, Federico Chueca, and Geronimo Giménez, and - for encore – ‘Lili's Song’ from Robert Merrill's Carnival.

A more varied recital program you will not find, but through it all, there was a single-minded consistency of treatment. Italian, German, Spanish and English were all clear, conversational, unaffected.  The theater aspect of the music - from the stark tragedy of ‘Arianna’ to Loewe's lyricism to Viardot's heartbreak to the show-off bravura of the Rossini songs to the hilarious flirting in the zarzuelas to the utter charm of the girl who came on two buses from Mira - was realized with nonstop authenticity and impact.

What Genaux and Rutenberg offered was an exceptional, outstanding feat of musical communication. For others, singing ‘difficult music’ may be to prove that they can.   In this case, technical bravura was not an issue, but rather something taken for granted.  In the faithful service of the music, the two artists exhibited both intelligence and humility.  Sequins and all, the singer holding forth on the stage and holding the audience in the palm of her hand acted as an interpreter of some wonderful works, not somebody strutting her stuff.”
Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice, October 18, 2005


 (Caramoor Festival/New York Festival of Song – “Dance Date with Cuba”)
“The singer was Vivica Genaux, a mezzo-soprano of Modiglianiesque beauty with a voice of penetrating purity.”
Charles Michener, New York Observer, August 1, 2005

 

(AIDS Benefit Concert – Köln, Germany)
“It doesn’t bother opera fans that Rossini made lowly Cinderella one of the goddesses of coloratura, at least not when she’s as dazzling as Vivica Genaux, the mezzo-soprano from Alaska.  Later, her pleasing zarzuela aria was also one of the evening’s high points.”
Marianne Kierspel, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, July4, 2005

 

(Concert – Premio «Opera CD Classics – Città di Mondovì»)
“Genaux’s concert, with a varied program featuring virtuosic arias by Handel and Giacomelli also included the fascinating and vivacious Spanish songs of Rossini and concluded with two spectacular arias from La Cenerentola and L’Italiana in Algeri.  It showed completely the spectacular technique and interpretive bravura of this young and beautiful singer.”
A.U., L’Unione Monregalese, June 1, 2005

 

“The singer not only has beautiful presence, but sings with great temperament and displays exceptional technical prowess.  She displays extraordinary ability and her characterizations of each vocal work were presented in the richest and most exciting way possible for this highly specialized repertoire.  With roaring applause, the public showed they realized they had listened to one of the most impressive singers on the international scene, one destined for even greater acclaim.”
A.U., Provincia Granda, June 3, 2005


 

(Festival de Música Cidade de Lugo - Lugo, SPAIN)
“This year’s festival in Lugo was inaugurated with the first Spanish recital by the celebrated singer from Alaska, Vivica Genaux, whose previous performances in our country have been limited to Donizetti’s Alahor in Granata in Seville (with Juan Diego Florez) and Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots in Bilbao.  This is much too little for a singer of Miss Genaux’s standing, whose recordings, from the Arias for Farinelli disc with Rene Jacobs, to the Vivaldi opera Bajazet with Fabio Biondi, have been blessed with exuberant praise from the international press.

Accompanied by the exceptional pianist Craig Rutenberg and dressed in elegant fashions that took one’s breath away, the mezzo-soprano sang a beautifully varied program.  Among these were Spanish zarzuela, sung with impeccable diction and verve, including ‘Tango de la Menegilda’ from La gran vía and ‘Zapateado’ from La Tempranica

She brought great feeling to songs of Pauline Viardot-García, particularly in ‘Die Sterne.’  In the ariettas, canzonettas and songs of Rossini, in the Spanish style, she displayed flights of virtuosity, enchanting the audience with her fluid coloratura abilities.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the beautiful and rarely-performed song cycle Frauenliebe by Carl Loewe.  She performed them with the utmost sensitivity, exploiting the songs’ languid melodiousness in perfectly articulated German”
J.A. Vela del Campo, El País, April 21, 2005

 


(Les Violons du Roy / Église Saint-Dominique, Québec)
“Now let's talk about the Violons' special guest, the American mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux.  She doesn't sing, she sculpts with sound.  Her voice literally carves out ornaments.  Her face can be compared with a high-quality musical instrument.  The coordination of the jaw and the lower lip is perfect.  This solid technique enables her to obtain uniform power and color throughout her range.  The low notes are warm, the high notes generous.

In opera arias by the Baroque master Johann Adolf Hasse, her voice traced the florid lines in a natural, supple way.  In the entire final cadenza of ‘Vaghi rai, pupille amate,’ the purity of her timbre was on a par with the beauty and grace of the melodic form.”
Richard Boisvert, Le Soleil, March 18, 2005


 

(Pittsburgh Opera/Carnegie Music Hall)
“Even those who heard Genaux's Cenerentola at Pittsburgh Opera in the fall of '02 haven't really heard her voice in its recent full bloom, something a recital can, and did evince.  Her timbre is even darker in hue now, fully mature and glorious to hear.
Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 24, 2005

“Genaux’s sterling vocal technique served her dramatic intensity”    “[her] commanding stage presence and mastery of rapid articulation provided plenty of fun.”
Mark Kanny, Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA), January 25, 2005

“When did the perception of opera get reduced to the image of fat ladies warbling while rich gents doze in their expensive seats?  It just ain't so.  The fat lady never sang Friday night ... but Vivica Genaux, who could double as a fashion model, did.  The gorgeous mezzo's voice and musicianship thrilled fans at Carnegie Music Hall.
Jean Horne, Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA), January 24, 2005

“Rather than a rags-to-riches miracle, Genaux has developed her talent through hard work and smart decisions about her art.”
Mark Kanny, Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA), January 21, 2005

 


(Carnegie Hall / Weill Recital Hall – New York, NY)
“The mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, who gave a much-awaited recital at Weill Recital Hall on Friday, proved herself what everyone expected.  She is an artist whose eager, confident manner on the platform exactly reflects the brightness, control and address in her singing.
There is a chocolaty richness at the bottom of her voice, but otherwise her basic tone is brilliant and forward.  Her maneuvering around the range, her management of a quick vibrato that adds radiance (and that can readily move into a full trill) and her immediate sense of pitch all add to the impression of a singer who is not only in total command of her instrument but totally at ease with it as well, and delighted to be making it work.
What follows from this is that she does not sing songs as if they were autobiography, but presents them rather as art.  So she has the freedom to assume roles, and to do so across the boundary of sex: perhaps it should not be a surprise that the same thrilling luster can speak — or rather sing — for male and female personae with equal aptness.
In a recent recording she has tackled some of the hugely challenging arias written for the castrato Farinelli, and she started this recital with two of those, by Nicola Porpora: songs of delicious amorous distress and longing conveyed, as she showed, not by sentimental expression but by agility, clarity, a feeling for line and a perfection of ornament.  She went on to three charming songs by Pauline Viardot and then Loewe's ‘Frauenliebe,’ where the same poems that prompted Schumann's ‘Frauenliebe und Leben’ are treated in a plainer style and brought to a somber conclusion, with the final text that Schumann omitted.
The second half she devoted to a fine account of Haydn's ‘Arianna’ cantata and to a highly engaging sequence of Spanish frolics: three by Rossini and three from the zarzuela repertory.”
Paul Griffiths, The New York Times, December 20, 2002

“Alaskan mezzo Vivica Genaux is a singer I hope to hear back in New York often and in a wide repertory.  Her wonderful recital appearance in Carnegie’s Weill Hall made me regret that this engaging (not to mention drop-dead gorgeous) American singer is chiefly active in Europe these days. 
The program was amazingly unhackneyed: with the exception of the Rossini Canzonetta spagnuola and a spiffy zarzuela aria about a tarantula that de los Angeles and Verrett used to do, I’d never heard any recitalist sing anything that Genaux tackled.
Her easy trills and breath control in her opening Porpora numbers (also on her current award-winning CD) were pretty staggering.
She dispatched three rarities by Pauline Viardot-Garcia with accomplishment and charm.  Partly of Mexican heritage, she really “owns” her Spanish declamation, but she proved adept in French and German too.  Rather than yet another traversal of Schumann’s Frauenliebe she gave a sensitive traversal of Carl Loewe’s rarely done version—quite affecting, with a concluding song that Schumann declined to set.
It would be good to hear Genaux locally in some Handel roles.”
David Shengold, GayCity News, December 20-26, 2002

“Vivica Genaux’s Weill Recital Hall concert was an impressive mixture of vocal fireworks, salon charm, Romantic lied, and Mediterranean high spirits that sent the capacity crowd out into the blustery rainy night with warm smiles and the satisfaction of hearing one of the day’s top young mezzos in fine form.”
“Powerful singing, astounding agility, a colorful voice with an impressive range, a stunning mix of styles, languages, and periods. Who says song recitals can’t be fun?”
Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com, December 14, 2002

 


(Anchorage, AK)
“Fairbanks native and rising opera star Vivica Genaux left no doubt in anyone’s mind why she has quickly become such a hot commodity on the international circuit.  She displayed her technical prowess; her trills were flawless and effortless, with more notes per beat than could be counted.  [In] the Haydn cantata ‘Arianna a Naxos’ her passionate delivery in the long work's many contrasts proved an evening highlight.  The showstopper was a set of three Spanish songs by Rossini.  In ‘Canzonetta Spagnuola,’ Genaux's abilities were at their peak.  With everything from speedy vocal runs to incredible dynamic control, it was here that she proved why she's become one of opera's darlings.”                            S.L. Guthrie, Anchorage Daily News, October 21, 2002

 


(Oderzo, ITALY)
“Vivica Genaux’s beautiful concert was the crowning achievement of the Oderzo Festival this summer.  Though already internationally acclaimed for some years, Genaux is relatively new to Italian audiences.  She is a lyric mezzo whose range extends from soprano-like peaks down to a rich low register.  Her timbre is reminiscent of Teresa Berganza’s, especially in the zarzuelas she performed here.  Rossini arias are perfect for her elegant singing and reveal all the smoothness and richness of Miss Genaux’s sound.  In the final scene from Cenerentola, she exhibits her expertise for the coloratura roulades of ‘Non più mesta’ and hearing ‘Cruda sorte’ made us wish to experience her brilliant Isabella on stage soon.”
Giorgio Gualerzi, L’Opera, October 2002

 


(Chatham Baroque/Pittsburgh)
“As big a career as mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux has already had just barely into her 30s, a recital last night at Synod Hall in Oakland made it obvious that the best is yet to come.”
“It [her program] says volumes about the intelligent approach that Genaux has applied to her career.  She is picky with her repertoire, but sings what she sings better than most in the world.  She has few peers in the three Rossini mezzo-soprano roles of Rosina, Angelina and Isabella, and is now showing the world some beautiful, all but forgotten works.  By avoiding roles that aren’t perfect for her, she keeps the integrity of her work at the highest level, though last night’s concert impressed those even expecting that level.”  “From the first phrase until the end of the concert, Genaux displayed a disciplined technique and a keen stylistic understanding of the music.  Her timbre is unique, with a gorgeous darkness that is beyond direct and easy description.  Nary a note went without the proper support and her phrasing was graceful.”  “She also had a complete sense of the greater purpose, that is the drama beyond each aria and recitative.  Through voice and visage, these pieces opened up like a translation of an ancient tale, but flowering in an individual and fresh way.”
Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 23, 2000

“Genaux’s vice is exceptionally rich in timbre, but with no heaviness whatsoever.  Her agile technique must be heard to be believed.  A former voice coach in attendance commented, ‘Vivica is the fastest voice on the planet’.  But she has much more to offer than record-setting coloratura.  Her emotional identification was riveting and she is an undeniably glamorous figure.” 
Mark Kanny, (Greensburg, PA) Tribune-Review, September 25, 2000


(Vidda Foundation/Opera Orchestra of New York – accompanied by Chatham Baroque/
Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall)

“Ms. Genaux is a singer of great technical security and virtuosity, with a strikingly appealing stage presence and a lovely, unique vocal timbre.  She has proved her mettle on the opera stage, where she strongly projects brightly comic personalities like Rosina in ‘Barber’ and forceful trouser-role characters in bel canto works.”  “She delivered the recital’s Spanish works by Literes, Esteve, and Arañes with lilt and spirit and an instinctive feel for their rhythmic character.”
Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2000

“...Ms. Genaux selected her works wisely and sang them with a stylish fluidity and a complete command both of the ornamental flourishes of Baroque music.  Those qualities were immediately apparent in Vivaldi’s ‘Alla caccia dell’alme e de’ cori,’ which opened the program.  Here, and in a stunningly nuanced account of a cantata attributed to Domenico Scarlatti, ‘Bella madre de’ fiori,” her embellishments were appropriately florid and thoughtfully applied, and she varied them interestingly in the repeated sections.  In the Spanish works – and particularly in the García encore, with its flamenco-like bent pitches – she sang with an ear for both musical and emotional accent of the language.”  “For a listener who heard Ms. Genaux give an affecting and skillfully ornamented performance in the title role of Rossini’s ‘Cenerentola’ at Caramoor in 1996, the musicality and communicativeness of her performance were not surprising.  What was striking, though, was the degree to which she is in control of her resources.  In an opera performance, she projects a full-bodied, rich sound; on Monday she produced a light, transparent timbre that suited the intimacy of the setting.”
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, March 17, 2000


OTHER:

Musical America 2005 Directory – "Young Vocalists Worth a Special Trip"
"Alaska-born Vivica Genaux, 35, skipped the apprentice track and is already in the midst of a major career, including recordings.  This vivacious mezzo, with smoky low notes and splendid agility, specializes in Baroque and Rossini operas.  Rosina in Barber is her mainstream calling card (when I first heard her in it, in Washington in 1996, she lit up the stage), but she has added many leading roles in more exotic pieces by Handel, Vivaldi, Gluck, and others, often with conductor René Jacobs.  Given her repertoire, Genaux works primarily in Europe these days, but she appears occasionally in American houses, including Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Los Angeles."
Heidi Waleson, Musical America, 2005 edition