On Thursday, April 5, from noon to 1:00 pm in the auditorium, the series will present a free concert by soprano Noemí de Silva with pianist Beibei Lin. The duo will be joined by guest recordist Doug Leonard. The program will feature music by Paolo Tosti, Giuseppi Verdi, Jules Massenet, Georges Bizet, Hugo Wolf, and Johann Sebastian Bach. Gifts from Helga and James Wilmoth, the Hamilton Gables Homeowners Association (in Memory of Aida and Hector Trau), and Anonymous Friends of the Series have helped make this performance possible.
Though originally trained as a violinist, it was high-school musical theater that peaked de Silva’s interest in professional singing as a career. “It’s what hooked me,” she said. But she says when she won acceptance to the University of Florida’s music program, she learned her training would be in opera and art music. This turned out to be a fortunate change of direction.
De Silva says her voice is one with a natural strength of volume and a style that tends to fit long, lyrical phrases, as heard in many operas. “Once I found opera, I really knew that it was the right fit for me,” she said.
After the University of Florida, de Silva graduated with her Master’s Degree from Florida State University. She performed with the Spanish Lyric Theater in Tampa, Florida, where she played roles such as the title character in “Cinderella,” Julietta in “El Conde de Luxemburgo,” and Asia in “Agua, Azucarillos y Aguardiente.” She has also appeared in productions with Opera Tampa, Florida State Opera, and St. Petersburg Opera.
In classical or concert singing, music is generally divided into art song or opera. For instance, in the “mélodies,” or French art songs, of Claude Debussy, de Silva says the lines in the piano and voice in large part move independently of each other.
But Massenet, who lived around the same time as Debussy, was known for his operas, and composed his art song in an operatic style, with the piano functioning more to support the voice’s melodic lines. De Silva will sing three mélodies by Massenet.
These mélodies by Massenet deal with objects and their stories. De Silva says one is a plaintive song about the singer’s hands and how well-loved they have been. Another is about a grandmother’s fan and the secrets it must know. A woman’s fan was once used as a subtle way for a woman to give messages to someone with a romantic interest. “The fan had its own language,” de Silva said.
Another of Massenet’s songs is about a sad bell, and how it signifies the end of things. “It’s about the bittersweetness of love, knowing that it will end,” de Silva said. “It’s really lush and very beautiful.”
The duo will perform two art songs by Tosti, an Italian composer. Like Massenet, he also wrote in a style similar to opera. “It’s just very schmaltzy and lush,” de Silva said.
Squarely in the opera category on Thursday’s program will be arias by Bizet and Verdi. De Silva will perform Bizet’s “Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante” from his opera, “Carmen.” In the aria, translated “I say that nothing can frighten me,” the character Micaëla sings a prayer for boldness to confront Carmen, a crafty and strong-minded seductress who is making life difficult for Micaëla and her family.
In Verdi’s “Otello,” the character Desdemona sings another prayer, the “Ave Maria” from the Catholic mass. She knows that she is about to be killed by Otello, who believes wrongly that she has been unfaithful to him. “It’s a very sad, supplication prayer,” de Silva said.
De Silva says naturally bigger voices like hers work well with music by composers in the operatic style of the Romantic Period during the mid-to-late nineteenth centuy. She says during that time, women singers began to be better trained to project sound, and were able to balance with large orchestras.
Earlier, such as during Mozart’s time and before, women’s singing roles were lighter in nature. Although Mozart doesn’t demand as much volume from his singers, this music often uses more notes, quick ornaments, and leaps of large intervals, which can be challenging for singers with bigger voices.
Outside of operatic music, de Silva and Lin will be joined by Leonard to perform Bach’s “Coffee Cantata,” a comical piece written in praise of coffee. They will also perform two songs from Wolf’s “Book of Spanish Songs.” Wolf was a 19th-century Austrian composer known for his lieder, or German art song.
In a nod to the kind of music that first attracted de Silva to singing, they will perform the song “Breathe” from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ musical “In the Heights.”
Lin debuted as a soloist with the MasterWorks Festival Orchestra at age seventeen. She recently performed at the International Double Reed Society Conference and at the Women Composers Festival of Hartford. She presents guest artist recitals and masterclasses and serves as an adjudicator throughout the United States, often lecturing on topics relating to music and sports performance. She teaches at Columbus State University.
Leonard has been a math professor at Auburn since 1981. He has been playing early music for over 50 years, mainly on baroque recorder and baroque flute. He is an avid supporter of early music in both Atlanta and Birmingham.