Singers are good value online. The most celebrated trail star quality in their wake and many are happy to appeal to a wide audience by varying their programme between opera and song, musicals, jazz and pop.
There is something to please everyone in Adam Guettel’s song cycle Myths and Hymns. In recent years, Guettel has become best known as the composer of The Light in the Piazza, the musical with a starring role for soprano Renée Fleming, but he has more to his name, including a commission from Houston Grand Opera for an opera based on H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man.
Myths and Hymns was written in 1998 and has been performed in concert and staged. Its songs offer a kaleidoscopic array of musical styles bound together by their texts, which are based on Greek myths and hymns from a 19th-century Presbyterian hymnal.
For this online performance, MasterVoices is presenting the cycle in four monthly instalments: Flight, Work, Love and Faith. Each song has been filmed to form part of a continuous sequence, often in outdoor settings, as if in a revue that has broken its bounds and is exploring the world at large.
Guettel’s music shifts its character with chameleon-like ease, sassy and self-aware like Sondheim (Guettel also writes his own words), but often touching, too. The first group of six numbers, Flight, is already available on demand and gives an idea of the range to come.
Joshua Henry lifts the showbiz curtain with the rousing “Saturn Returns”. The high-octane wordplay of “Icarus” takes flight thanks to duo Mykal Kilgore and Norm Lewis. A star trio of women’s voices — Julia Bullock, Renée Fleming, Kelli O’Hara — tug at the heartstrings with “Migratory V”. Part two, Work, follows on February 24; Love in April; Faith in May.
A similar, ongoing project is under way at Atlanta Opera. A dozen singers with close connections to the company are taking part in Love Letters to Atlanta, a collection of interviews and songs, filmed in notable venues across the city.
The first three are online until Valentine’s Day from the company’s Spotlight Media streaming site. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton kicks off with a stirring performance of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind” from the historic Fox Theatre. Bass Kevin Burdette, not always sounding comfortable, dips into Camelot for “If Ever I Would Leave You” and Morris Robinson grandly invokes “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha.
Given how hard it must be for singers to stay in vocal shape during the pandemic, New York’s Metropolitan Opera has been fortunate that so many have sounded on good form in its series Met Stars Live in Concert. The latest is Anna Netrebko, sounding at her peak in the impossibly grand surroundings of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
Her recital offers a generous selection of Russian, French and German songs, and a handful of operatic extracts. The Rachmaninov songs are a special delight, sung with a generosity of voice and feeling that sweeps all before it. As a bonus, Elena Maximova joins her for a couple of duets.
mastervoices.org; stream.atlantaopera.org; metopera.org