Christine Teeters’s theme, at her one-hour recital on March 6 at First Church, Boston, was royalty. She was joined by collaborative pianist Michelle Alexander at this concert, part of a series of Sunday afternoon recitals organized by Music Director Paul Cienniwa.The program was varied and excellent, including pieces by Schumann, Handel, Mozart, Britten, John Corigliano, Verdi, and Satie. First up were Schumann’s Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, op. 135, five songs that the queen wrote: “Separated from France,” “On the birth of her son,” “To Queen Elizabeth,” “Separated from the world,” and “Prayer.” The last two were particularly emotional, and Teeters invested them with sentiment, both facially and vocally.
Then came “Furie terribili!,” an aria from Handel’s opera Rinaldo. As Armida, Queen of Damascus, Teeters unleashed such sound and agility to astonish the audience. “Al destin, che la minaccia,” from Mozart’s opera Mitridate, re di Ponto followed. Teeters played Aspasia, the Queen pledged in marriage to Mitridate (but killed in battle).
Britten was represented by two songs from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Come, now a roundel,” and “Be Kind and Courteous.” These are in Britten’s pastoral style. Portraying Tytania, Queen of the Fairies,Teeters sang them marvelously. John Corigliano’s (b. 1938) Marie Antoinette aria, “They are always with me,” from his grand opera buffa The Ghosts of Versailles, made me glad that this opera, originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, was in the repertory.
But the pièce de résistance of this recital was grand “Scène et Duo” from Verdi’s Don Carlos, sung with tenor Ethan Bremner. Teeters portrayed Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of the King of France, and Bremner portrayed Don Carlos. Basically, he has fallen in love with Elisabeth, but to ensure peace between France and Spain, she must marry his father, the king of Spain. Don Carlos and Elizabeth meet in a monastery, and he exits professing his love for her that she can’t bring herself to realize.Bremner, who has an excellent tenor voice and really knows how to act, conveyed Don Carlos’ anguish in this duo convincingly. The two singers have sung it, and it shows. This excruciating duo brought tears to my eyes and to those of many in the audience.
Two Erik Satie (1866-1925) cabaret songs, Je te veux, and La diva de l’Empire, finished the recital. I suppose the royalty theme was in reference to this particular cabaret, deemed the “Queen of the Slow Waltz.”They were written for singer and pianist and friend Paulette Darty. Teeters has an excellent sense of all things French, including a French “whoop.”
The closing First Church recital will presens Christine Teeters’s sister Rebecca on April 10 in a program entitled “Words of Women.”