The combination of glamor and charm that is so much a part of soprano Danielle de Niese makes for quite a beguiling force. It was on full display Sunday evening in a recital presented by the Shriver Hall Concert Series.
Although an announcement was that the artist was under the weather after her trip from London to Baltimore, there was little evidence of vocal discomfort -- not much more than a cloudy note or two in the low register and some coughing in between selections -- when de Niese charged into her exceptionally imaginative program.
John Dowland's "Come again, sweet love doth now invite," sung with gentle nuance at the start of the recital, was the closest thing to a mainstream item.
Among the novelties was an alternate aria Mozart wrote for a production of "The Marriage of Figaro," to be sung by Adriana Ferrarese, mistress of the opera's librettist. "Al desio di chi t'adora" is a far cry from the perfection of the original "Deh vieni, non tardar" in Act 4, but de Niese gave it a vibrant spin.
It is not every day, or even every decade, that you come across a Grieg song cycle in concert. But here was "Haugtussa" in all of its rich poetic/melodic flavor, delivered with terrific insight and radiant tone by de Niese.
Pianist Cameron Stowe matched the singer subtlety for subtlety, shimmer for shimmer here. The two artists tapped into the almost Jerome Kern-suavity of "Mote" and bittersweet beauty of "Ved gjaetle-bekken" with particular eloquence. And there was no shortage of wit from the performers, as in the folksy, hopping-skipping "Killingdans."
Poulenc's heady "Fiancailles pour rire" inspired a great deal of elegant vocalism and pianism. De Niese lightened her voice magically in Bizet's "Chanson d'avril," then poured on the tonal velvet for his wry "La coccinelle."
The soprano showed off her acting skills at several points during the recital, nowhere more winningly than in Delibes' sensual "Les filles de Cadix."