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Soprano Explores Finnish Heritage and European Opera

By Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post

The young Finnish soprano Meri Siirala has a lustrous voice supple enough for the delicate innuendos and intimate inflections of the solo song, yet also capable of projecting the dramatic vigor necessary for the opera house. On Friday she sang songs and arias in five languages to a capacity audience at the residence of Finland’s ambassador, Pekka Lintu. It is easy to see why she has already made a mark on her country’s concert scene.

Siirala opened with seven songs in Finnish and Swedish by Jean Sibelius, giving voice to the composer’s signature evocations of atmospheric melancholy and aura of semi-impressionism in which poems of nature’s beauty and ancient myth are cast in dreamlike mists. Here the soprano’s ebullient tone and agility served her well in long unaccompanied passages dotted with tricky trills. Songs of Sibelius’s younger compatriot Leevi Madetoja were given a full measure of post-romantic radiance tinged with the gentle lyricism of folksong. Siirala also sang three songs of Richard Strauss that verged on operatic grandeur with melodic and harmonic touches hinting at Der Rosenkavalier.

For the evening’s second half, Siirala moved to the opera world with familiar arias by Mozart, Puccini, and Gounod. In these she sounded completely confidant and equipped with the presence and broader vocal gestures of the opera stage. She leaped as nimbly into the coloratura passages of Juliet’s “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo and Julietteas she raced passionately through “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta” from Puccini’s La Rondine. Pianist George Peachey was a responsive accompanist, though the pathos of the Finnish songs called for a larger instrument’s coloristic resources. The concert was co-sponsored by the Embassy Series.

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