By Scott MacClelland
Despite little and/or late publicity, when the word gets out that Carmel’s David Gordon will host a concert a crowd will assuredly show up. That happened Sunday afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist church near the intersection of Aguajito Road and Freeway 1 at the top of Carmel Hill. Gordon’s repute for excellent concert productions is well known; those he does for the Carmel Bach Festival, which he serves as director of the Adams Master Class and dramaturge, are always sold out.
For the Sunday performance Gordon served as MC for a recital by the talented baritone Peter Tuff and the gifted pianist Lucy Faridany, two local treasures who could be big fish in much bigger ponds. Tuff is equally fine as a stage actor as he is a singer of opera, Lieder and musical theater. For the event, Gordon provided his signature spoken commentary, full of wit and historically arcane but amusing trivia, ahead of each number. He also introduced Morgan Harrington (pictured), a sparkling young soprano from Napa who comes from local roots; she is the granddaughter of famed nature photographer and abstract photo artist Wynn Bullock. And she already presents a formidable résumé with regional opera companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
The theme, probably positioned by intent closer to April Fool’s than to Valentine’s Day, was “Perhaps Love.” Indeed, it ranged “from the ridiculous to the sublime,” from Mozart to Cole Porter, including arias and duets from Nozze di Figaro, Carmen, Barber of Seville, Don Giovanni, to Verdi and Puccini. Harrington sang the Spanish-flavored “My lips, they kiss with such fire” from Lehar’s Giuditta. Tuff sang Wagner’s prayer to the Evening Star with great sensitivity to both words and music. Together they gave a deeply moving account of the scene from La traviata when Violetta agrees with her lover’s father to break off the affair for the sake of the Germont family honor. And Harrington brought another tear to the eye in the scene from La bohème when she (Mimi) leaves her lover with “Addio, senza rancor” (Farewell, with no hard feelings.)
The program ended with two enchanting scenes from Jerry Bock’s She Loves Me followed by the final love duet from Lehar’s Merry Widow. But the sellout audience, now high as a kite over this fabulous recital, refused to let them go, and were rewarded with the comic love-at-first-sight scene of Papageno and Papagena in The Magic Flute and the Christine/Raoul love duet from Phantom of the Opera. The two or three standing ovations were spot on in this case and I think everyone there would agree that the “Perhaps” part of the program title was academic.