Daniel Okulitch & Keri Alkema
Song Cycles by Glen Roven, recorded live in Santa Fe
Daniel Okulitch and Glen Roven have been collaborating since 2011 when Okulitch recorded Roven's "Songs from the Underground," which they performed live in Santa Fe when Okulitch was in Menotti's The Last Savage. They again had a Santa Fe recital in 2016 where they were joined by Keri Alkema who performed Roven's Six Ancient Chines Songs, and Okulitch performed The Santa Fe Songs. These recitals were recorded live and are available now for the first time. Roven accompanied both sings for all the performances.
On Leaving Brooklyn
Last Skin Part B
At the intersection of Music and Poetry
Roven has worked mostly as a Broadway composer, conductor, and arranger, and his art songs, have something in common with those of Ricky Ian Gordon and Jake Heggie. Roven credited Chinese soprano Hui He with the inspiration for his song cycle Six Ancient Chinese Poems, a set of six songs set to Chinese poetry translated by Jane Hirshfield, sung here by Keri Alkema, who made her Santa Fe Opera debut this summer as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. The more dramatic soprano writing suited Alkema's powerful voice beautifully, particularly thrilling at the end of the second song and at the exclamation "O wind, do not stop" in the final song, while songs that required a softer approach at the top were not as easily negotiated.
Roven's harmonic and melodic palette in these songs did not have Chinese elements, other than perhaps a tinge of something like Debussy's Pagodes, but in a second cycle, The Santa Fe Songs, Roven ranged into many other styles and sounds. It seemed tailored to the voice of Daniel Okulitch, who sings the title role of Don Giovanni across from Alkema's Donna Elvira this season, a rich, refined sound across the whole ambitus and with excellent diction. The second song, "Listening to Jazz Now," was a highlight, with a pitch-perfect jazz style, as was the harmonic tension that mirrored the poetry of the third song. In all of his songs, Roven played his own accompaniments with poise. Here Roven set all texts by poets from Santa Fe, encountered on a previous visit, and three of the poets were in attendance.
by Charles T. Downey