Ryan Speedo Green, the fast-rising American bass- baritone, was the featured artist in a Matinee Musicale Cincinnati concert this Sunday March 27 at the First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati.
Accompanied by the collaborative pianist, Bradley Moore, the bass-baritone sang a mix of operatic and oratorio arias, German Lieder, Spirituals, and American Art Song in a program that might just be the musical calling card needed by this singer.
Speedo Green opened with an a cappella Deep River, at once dispelling any doubt that we were in the presence of a sensitive artist. The singer then moved on to Hugo Wolf’s trio of melodies for bass voice, the Michelangelo Lieder, the composer’ last three songs, created not long before his untimely death. Another Lied, Gustav Mahler’s Urlicht, further demonstrated the singer’s affinity for German Song.
The first half of the program ended with Die Frist ist um, the thunder and lightning soliloquy of the errant mariner in Richard Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, a vocal and dramatic test piece that Speedo Green humorously described as an “all-hands-on-deck” aria. Singers of the role of the Dutchman don’t grow on trees and I would be hard put to recall a more impressive rendition of this solo scene.
The thirty-five year young bass-baritone opened the second half of the program with Banquo’s aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, the selection serving as evidence of a gift for what Verdi demands of his singers: the ability to spin a seamless vocal line, up and down the range, on any vowel, at any dynamic level. Here, as in the Wagner aria, Speedo Green proved his musical, vocal, and theatrical mettle.
Lord God of Abraham, from Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah was beautifully sung and followed by four art songs by African American composers that reminded the listeners of an area of American song literature all too often neglected. Speedo Green delivered heartfelt, now potent, now delicate singing in several gems by Margaret Bonds, Florence B. Price, Leslie Adams, and Howard Swanson.
After being rewarded with a well-deserved ovation, Speedo Green and his superb collaborative pianist, Bradley Moore, returned to give as an encore This nearly was mine from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, closing a memorable afternoon of glorious music-making.
Rafael de Acha