The thrill of being a singer for me has always been first and foremost about communicating the text. It’s flattering when someone likes the sound of my voice, but what really makes me happy is to hear them say, “I understood every word.” I choose songs based as much on the words as the music. I love singing many different kinds of music—jazz, r&b, musical theatre, cowboy songs—you name it. But where I feel most authentic is with European and American art songs.
I’ve sung repertory ranging from the 12th century to music written in the last few years. A few of my favorites: the lush, complex harmonies of English composer Gerald Finzi’s songs to poems from Shakespeare plays or Thomas Hardy’s thorny, dramatic verses; the handful of songs French composer Francis Poulenc wrote for bass voice (such as his setting of an otherworldly sonnet by Jean Racine, or Louise de Vilmorin’s sophisticated and urbane poetry); the great American composer Ned Rorem’s early song cycle, Flight for Heaven, with poems by the 17th-century English cleric, Robert Herrick; and Debussy’s settings of the mordant and plangent words of the medieval poet François Villon. I love oratorio, too, especially the vocal literature of J.S. Bach.
I’ve performed with several small opera companies around New York City, as well as the New York City Opera Chorus, and in professional concert choirs under such great conductors as Leopold Stokowski (yes, I’ve been around that long), Zubin Mehta, and Kurt Masur. I’ve been fortunate to sing the premieres of numerous pieces written for me by contemporary composers. I’ve worked with several avant-garde composers and performance artists. I toured Israel and Japan with Meredith Monk and sang the premieres of works by composer Tan Dun and choreographer Jerry Pearson. I’ve written a screenplay for those Debussy songs of Villon, and I look forward to turning it into a film someday.
Read about my recent solo performance in Wanderlust: Schubert’s Wilderness Journey.