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Frederica von Stade

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FREDERICA VON STADE

The dark luster of Frederica von Stade's voice may derive from her range, which rides just a notch lower than the typical mezzo-soprano's: by her own admission, "on a good day" she sings down to low F and up to high D. But it's taken more than a little extra huskiness to make her the leading singer of trouser roles at the Metropolitan Opera, with which she has enjoyed a charmed relationship since 1970. Her interpretative abilities have consistently drawn raves, and her intelligence and natural gift for song have allowed her to glide into the hearts of wider audiences than just the Met and Lyric subscription pools. Von Stade came to opera relatively late, having fallen in love first with musical theater, and she likes to turn her bel canto expertise back onto various pop settings. The best of these projects is a 1996 album of Dave Brubeck compositions, which casts her voice in much the same role played by Paul Desmond's alto sax in Brubeck's great quartet of the 50s and 60s. But she's even recorded an album with radio host and storyteller Garrison Keillor--proving, if nothing else, that she's no snob when it comes to vocal partners. Von Stade leaves the trousers behind when she moves from the operatic stage to the recital hall, rejoicing in the feminine side of her handsome voice and disarming listeners with the shy humor of her spoken introductions. For this performance, with accompanist Martin Katz at the piano, she'll present a program that includes five songs by Faure and another five by Strauss; it reflects both her vaunted intimacy with the French literature and the slightly Teutonic tilt of her timbre. She'll also sing up-and-coming Bay Area composer Jake Heggie's Songs to the Moon, making its world premiere on von Stade's current tour. Thursday, August 20, 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Marcia Lieberman.

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