Soprano Zhang displays rich voice, impressive artistry

By Lawrence Budmen

Megui Zhang performed arias and art songs Tuesday night at Wertheim Performing Arts Center in Miami.

Each season Friends of Chamber Music presents a vocal recital by a young singer from the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. Over the years, the level of artistry has been consistently high. 

On Tuesday night soprano Megui Zhang took the stage of the Wertheim Performing Arts Center at Florida International University and demonstrated a degree of versatility unique even among the excellent singers in the Met’s training program. Zhang’s sumptuous instrument was equally adept in arias ranging from Mozart to Verdi and art songs.

Making her entrance in a striking red gown, Zhang opened with “Deh vieni, non tardar” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Her rich, oaky middle voice and lovely top were matched by keen word painting. She was totally enticing in Susanna’s flirtatious impersonation of the Countess Almaviva. (Zhang is singing the role of Barbarina in Mozart’s opera at the Met this season but it is only a matter of time before she moves on to Susanna.) Switching gears, Zhang radiated Pamina’s despair in “Ach ich fühl’s” from The Magic Flute, phrased with nobility of line.

Two Schubert songs were radiant. Pianist Ken Noda’s swaying rhythm introduced Zhang’s enchanting and artful rendition of “Ganymed.” There was lightness and charm in her performance of “Im Frühling,” bathed in meltingly beautiful tones.

Zhang has a considerably larger voice than most sopranos who sing the role of Gilda’s from Verdi’s Rigoletto. She potently etched the innocent girl’s naiveté in “Caro nome,” rendered with flexible coloratura and spot-on trills.

Debussy’s Quatre chansons de jeunesse demonstrated her stylistic affinity for Gallic songs. Noda’s quirky rhythms led Zhang’s leaping vocal acrobatics in “Pantomime” and “Clair de lune” (not the familiar piano piece) displayed Zhang’s full range. “Pierrot’ was a whirlwind vignette, a test of Zhang’s agile and solid top notes. Her rich timbre took center stage for a gorgeous rendition of “Apparition.” Noda’s nuanced keyboard coloration, sense of pulse and ability to musically breathe along with singers was particularly impressive in Debussy’s cycle.

Zhang changed into a stunning green sequined dress for the program’s second half. The luxuriant radiance of her singing in the Gavotte from Massenet’s Manon was equally beautiful. She sang the aria in its entirety, including the brilliant introductory quasi- recitative.

Six Romances by Rachmaninoff were an emotional roller coaster with Zhang exploring a vast dramatic range. She conjured up the dreamy aura of “In My Garden at Night” and evidenced the talents of a born entertainer in the folk-inflected declamation of “The Pied Piper.”  Zhang brought a darker sound to the desperation of a lover in “To Her” but her tone turned brighter for the evocation of “Daisies.” She astutely managed the wide leaps from low to high notes in the romance of “A Dream” and  her top soared in the concluding “A-oo!”

Noda was much more than the attentive accompanist. In Rachmaninoff’s songs, his dexterity, deeply resonant tone and sweeping fireworks showcased pianistic command of the highest order.

An effortless lyrical outpouring of Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” was the audience-pleasing encore.  Zhang and Noda offered one more, unexpected song. She sang “Happy Birthday” to FOCM president Julian Kreeger, a delightful surprise to end an evening of fine singing by an artist of great promise.

Friends of Chamber Music present the Escher and Dover Quartets playing Mendelssohn’s Octet and other works TBA  8 p.m. March 11 at FIU Wertheim Performing Arts Center.

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Wed Feb 26, 2020
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