Sweden Songs and opera arias : Rebecca Rasmussen (soprano), Swedish Jenny Lind Scholar 2011, Markus Pettersson (tenor), Dmitry Tyapkin (piano), Otto Goldschmidt Scholar 2011 Producer – Britt Marie Aruhn , Missionskyrkan, Borlänge, Sweden, 10.8.2011 (NS)
2011 is the centenary of the birth of the great Swedish tenor Jussi Björling. The celebrations include a number of memorial concerts, most recently one at Opera på Skäret ( see review). On a smaller scale two promising young singers have been on a recital tour with a programme linking Björling with Jenny Lind, the greatest Swedish singer of the nineteenth century.
Rebecca Rasmussen began the recital with songs by three composers all closely associated with Jenny Lind: Adolf Fredrik Lindblad, Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. Ms. Rasmussen’s voice is operatic with a rich timbre and was best suited to the more dramatic songs, in particularMå’n tro, jo! Jo! by Lindblad and Hexenlied by Mendelssohn. She showed very good phrasing and breath control, in particular in Auf Flügeln des Gesanges.
Later in the recital Ms. Rasmussen showed a more sensitive side and softer dynamics in two very moving songs by Rachmaninov, as well as inEbben n’andro lontana from La Wally by Catalani. Her outstanding solo performance was however the Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust, where her voice was scintillating and moving. In this aria and indeed throughout the recital she was always acting a part, rather than simply singing a song. Her stage presence was particularly notable in her duets with Markus Pettersson: Tanzlied by Schumann and Puccini’s O soave fanciulla, a delightful end to the programme.
Markus Pettersson does not yet have the same confident stage presence as Ms Rasmussen, but as he is only 23 years old it will surely come with time. His voice is another matter entirely: a classic Swedish tenor sound and an Italianate squillo, which shows no sign of strain at the top or bottom of his range. His tone is also warm and even throughout. His section of the programme began with songs that were favourites of Jussi Björling’s. Mr Pettersson’s delivery of Hugo Alfvén’s Jag längtar dig and Gustaf Nordqvist’s Till havs was both powerful and lyrical, and almost overpowering in the resonant acoustic of the venue. His lower register was used to great effect in Sibelius’ haunting song Svarta rosor, and he sang Tonerna by Carl Leopold Sjöberg particularly sensitively.
Mr Pettersson was also excellent in two popular verismo arias: Leoncavallo’s Mattinata and Puccini’s E lucevan le stelle, in the latter again demonstrating a beautiful piano voice. He and Ms Rasmussen worked very well together musically in both their duets.
Their accompanist Dmitry Tyapkin, a young Russian pianist now studying in Sweden, deserves a special mention. As an accompanist he was excellent, and he and the singers had a very good connection. He also had a chance to shine as a soloist in three Rachmaninov preludes, which he played beautifully.
The decision to add a solo piano interlude to the programme was excellent, and reflects the care which was put into the programming of this recital series by Britt Marie Aruhn. The result was a wonderful evening, and (alongside the Ring Cycle at the Wermland Opera ) another demonstration of Sweden’s pool of talented young opera singers.
This performance in Borlänge, Jussi Björling’s home town, was the penultimate in the tour. The final performance is at Bältesspännarparken in Gothenburg on 18 August at 18.00. The recital is part of Gothenburg’s annual Culture Festival and entrance is free.