05. December 2011 · Comments Off on Frederica von Stade · Categories: Reviews

Love is all you need — and somehow all there is to offer — when Frederica von Stade begins to sing. Even after all these years, the proof was onstage Saturday at the Herbst Theatre where the beloved mezzo-soprano starred in her own hometown retirement party of sorts, joined by starry friends, who festooned her with songs and tributes.
“It’s taken 40 years to get us all in one room,” joked soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, one of the Olympians who took part in this goody basket of a sold-out concert. Guests included the venerable — bass Samuel Ramey, baritone Richard Stilwell and surprise guest mezzo Marilyn Horne — and also the more recently anointed — Susan Graham and Joyce DiDonato, both uber-talented mezzos. The crowd barely had time to catch its breath as the briskly paced and beautifully sung program, titled “Celebrating Frederica von Stade,” moved from one number to the next.
Von Stade, 66 — who has lived for years in Alameda and long ago made her mark with San Francisco Opera, one of the night’s five presenters — didn’t let the evening turn overly sentimental. In fact, at the outset, she ran onstage, already in role as Cherubino, the love-struck page in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro.”

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I remember when Frederica von Stade sang with San Jose Symphony many years ago. It was back when we were broadcast live over a local classical radio station (remember those?). Prior to her singing she was pacing backstage and said something about how nervous live broadcasts made her. I loved that — it made me feel good to know someone of her calibre was nervous as well. Of course she was wonderful! Whatever it was we were doing had a good amount of English horn in it. (I have a tape of it somewhere around here that someone sent to me — we were doing a Ravel work for voice and orchestra and it had a large English horn solo in it but I sure can’t remember what it was! Anyone know what work that would be? Do tell! I should pull it out and see if I can find a tape player that would allow me to hear it.)

I wish I could have attended her farewell concert, but of course I had work. I have always enjoyed and admired her. Yet another musician (like Mr. Nakamatsu) who gives back.

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