On Saturday, October 29th, local concertgoers were treated to an evening of fireworks as coloratura soprano Cyndia Sieden sang a varied program from traditional composers (including Schubert) to modern composers (including Ades with Strauss and Schoenberg thrown in for good measure). The concert was sponsored by the S.T.A.R. Foundation of Monterey County as the second in a series of three vocal recitals by world-class opera singers to help raise awareness of its goals to help fund the arts throughout Monterey County.
Ms. Sieden and pianist Judith Cohen were in exceptional form and precision in the intimate Hidden Valley Theater. It was at Hidden Valley where we heard Ms. Sieden perform her very first opera role (Violetta in La Traviata) some years ago. She went on to perform with such companies as the Bayerische Staatsoper, Opera Nationale de Paris, Gran Teatro de Liceu, Vienna State Opera, English National Opera, New York City Opera and the MET. The list goes on. She is especially known for her ability to negotiate the stratospheric heights of the “Queen of the Night” aria, and, most recently, “The Tempest” by Thomas Ades.
Equal to the task at hand, Judith Cohen was the First Place winner in the Pacific International Piano Competition and has won prizes in the Memphis International Keyboard Competition, the International Young Keyboard Artists Association Competition and the International Piano Recording Competition.
The duo provided a capacity crowd with polished rendition of “The Lark Sings High in the Cornfield” by Linley the Elder. Handelian in nature, it started the evening with the flavor of the treats to come. Sieden’s voice is as clear and clean and accurate a soprano as you will ever hear.
Three songs by Schubert (Im Heine, Im Frühling and Die Männer sind mechant!) were delivered with sincerity and nuance. She then presented five of the eight Cabaret Songs by Arnold Schoenberg. This was Schoenberg that was easy on the ear and showed Ms. Sieden’s ease with the audience. The first half proved to be the appetizers for a feast to come.
Yes, the second half of the program. Wow. It began with Thomas Ades “The Tempest” which is filled with unbelievably difficult music for the coloratura. It is a tour de force to be sure and Ms. Sieden has received rave reviews for her ability to conquer the farthest reaches of the human voice. It starts on the “e” above “high c”; you know, the notes only dogs can hear. Out of nowhere, there it was and it kept coming back, time after time. How did she/does she do that? What luck to be able to hear such a voice and in person.
She then found the core of two songs by John Musto and three by Gregory Youtz, both modern composers who write extremely accessible music which is both good for the voice and grand for the ear. But, then came the Strauss. Ah, the Strauss. These songs had particular sentiment for Ms. Sieden as she had coached them with the legendary Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Schwarzkopf was also instrumental in helping Ms. Sieden with her career after having taught her in master classes given at Hidden Valley. Sieden was born to sing Strauss. Ich Schwebe, Morgen, Schlectes Wetter, Ich sehe wie in einen Spiegel and Schlangende Herzen were sung beautifully. Morgen, arguably the most sublime song ever penned, was stunning. How can one top those renderings of Strauss at his best? Wait, an encore of Caro Nome from Verdi’s Rigoletto was mesmerizing and the icing on a most glorious cake.
Thanks go to you, Cyndia Sieden, Judith Cohan and the S.T.A.R. Foundation of Monterey County, for lifting our hearts.
Hugh Jardin is a freelance writer with a background in opera and song. He has performed in Germany and Austria as well as with a number of opera companies and symphonies in the United States.