Grace Bumbry/Alexander Schmalcz - Wigmore Hall, 9 May 2007
Earlier this year, the legendary Grace Bumbry turned 70. As she strode on stage for this rare recital, the audience gave her the sort of ovation normally reserved for someone who's just finished a great recital rather than not even started one.
But could she deliver the goods? It was obvious within seconds that none of the charisma has diminished. In a vivid turquoise satin gown with flowing chiffon cape sleeves set off by glossy scarlet nails, knuckleduster diamonds and shoes DYED TO MATCH (Gheorghiu, you can but dream...) she cut a foxily commanding figure.
Her programme kicked off with a sneaky filch from the tenor repertoire, Where'er you walk. No-one expected laser accuracy, but the tone was still silvery and beautiful with no loss of musicality or expressiveness. And the breath control was simply astounding - not a movement, not a sound. Half the audience (moi included) just couldn't help clapping straight after the first song, and carried on applauding each one after. (Boos to the grouchy snots who refused to participate in this gross breach of etiquette).
The longer she sang, the better she sounded. The final Falla canciones were just beautiful. Bumbry knows the singer is never bigger than the music, and never imposed any unnecessary flourishes or look-at-me theatricalising. She encored just twice, with Obradors' El vito and Del cabello más sutil, delivering them with a sensuality and verve which completely eluded La Gheorghiu the previous evening . Someone near me appeared to be privately recording (naughty, naughty) - where will that turn up I wonder .......
Wigmore platform awaits Grace: