"A Heavenly, Rarely Heard Voice"

    "Ms.Podles reminded once again that she is actually either a creature from another planet where singing is revered as the highest art or a time traveler sent from the golden age of Ernestine Schumann-Heink.

Appearances by Madame are rare in this city and therefore doubly cherished. On Sunday afternoon, she fronted the Moscow Chamber Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall. Her first number was a rarity, the Joan of Arc Cantata of Gioacchino Rossini. It is hard to imagine that anyone ever performed it more strikingly.

Ms.Podles, as good as any performer alive today at plunging headlong into character, delivered the impassioned statement not as the world’s most impressive contralto, but rather as St.Joan herself.

With the look of Falconetti from Antonin Artaud’s "The Passion of Joan Arc", Ms.Podles exhibited her amazing range, both tonal and dramatic. She has an incredibly secure lower register, instantly breathtaking, but she can also match the top line of any self-respecting mezzo (I once heard her excerpts from "Carmen" that were superb). After a well-paced and intense cavatina, she seemed to need only one audible breath to dazzle with a tongue-twisting cabaletta to die for. I shouldn’t admit this, but words tend to fail me in these extreme situations: You really needed to be there to appreciate such rare artistry."

February 28, 2006

by Fred Kirshnit