Director’s Chair: Grammy Award winning bass-baritone Bryn Terfel comes to the Vilar Center
“A born communicator who loves words as much as music, he has reached out to audiences way beyond the rarefied temples of opera house and recital hall.” — The Times (London)
I begin my column with the above quote and hope you will keep it in mind as you consider a rare opportunity to spend an evening with a truly amazing talent at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday. My concern is that when you realize I’m talking about an international opera superstar you will stop reading because, like many people, you think, “I don’t like opera. No need to read on.” I’m asking you to please read on.
LUMINARIES COME TO THE VILAR
For a number of years, the Vilar has had the honor to present some of opera’s most internationally acclaimed superstars. Luminaries who have graced our stage include Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Renee Fleming and Jonas Kaufman. These are often the only concert performances by these artists in North America, and fans travel from all over to see them in our intimate venue.
If you come to the Vilar very often, you probably know that I typically greet patrons after each performance in the lobby. I’m always appreciative of any feedback from our audiences. After a recital by one of the greats, I hear the same response from patrons over and over again. It goes something like this, “Amazing! How lucky are we to have artists like this come to the Vilar?” or “Wow, this was so much more than I expected.”
Wednesday’s concert by bass-baritone Bryn Terfel will follow that sentiment. It will truly be much more than you could ever expect.
Terfel’s booming bass
Frankly, I don’t even like calling it a recital. That implies a performance that could be construed as soft and intimate. Terfel’s booming bass is not that. He will fill every space, every nook and cranny of our center with his celebrated and rich baritone voice.
“Terfel is a force of nature. … His voice can switch from a honeyed pianissimo to a stentorian roar without losing a trace of musicality.” — The Sunday Telegraph (United Kingdom).
Trust me when I say you will actually feel his voice resonate within you.
Terfel made his operatic debut in 1990 with the Welsh National Opera. He hasn’t slowed down since. He has performed in all of the great houses of the world. From London to Zurich, from Milan to New York, Terfel has performed all of the great opera roles for bass-baritone, including Figaro, Falstaff and Wotan.
His concert this week in Beaver Creek will feature more than opera. While Broadway fans may not recognize his name, you will likely recognize his face. In 2014, he starred alongside Academy Award winner Emma Thompson in a critically praised semi-staged production of “Sweeney Todd” at New York City’s prestigious Lincoln Center. His performance as the title character showed Terfel’s range, enticing critic Charles Isherwood of The New York Times to write, “Mr. Terfel … may be the most richly gifted singer ever to undertake the title role.”
Following that celebrated run, Terfel hasn’t stopped — leading opera companies across the globe and leaping from continent to continent to headline recitals in South Africa and the United Kingdom. He topped off 2015 by taking on another iconic Broadway role — Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” — at England’s Grange Park Opera.
Being the executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center has a few perks. In that capacity, I just received the program he will perform here Wednesday night. I can’t share them all with you, but rest assured he has three terrific Broadway tunes, including songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe and Jerry Bock. He also will be performing a number of folk-style songs like “Shenandoah” and “At the River” from his recently released album “Homeward Bound” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. There are some other surprises and opera fans won’t be disappointed either.
It truly will be an unforgettable night at the Vilar with Bryn Terfel. The performance will be more than a recital. It’s going to be a very special concert by one of the true greats of our time. And make sure to tell me your thoughts after the performance. I’ll be the guy grinning from ear to ear in the lobby.
Kris Sabel is executive director of the Vilar Performing Arts Center.