Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Return of Elza van den Heever

The young South African soprano Elza van den Heever learned her craft at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, continued her studies through the Merola and Adler programs at the San Francisco Opera, and still has Merola's Sherri Greenawald as her voice coach. However, she no longer lives in San Francisco's Civic Center next door to me, but has moved her home base to Bordeaux, France which I'm sure was an extreme sacrifice on her part, but these are the things one has to do while Living For Art.

She has been busy learning the soprano repertory in The Old World, principally in Frankfurt and Bordeaux, but in truth all over the globe for the last year. This November she returned to San Francisco to sing Strauss' "Four Last Songs" with Michael Tilson Thomas at the San Francisco Symphony. Her voice was as thrilling as ever, taking the listener to some heavenly places, though the choice of repertory was a little strange, because Elza was way too young to be singing this. For sopranos, "The Four Last Songs" is a bit like "King Lear," in that it demands a certain maturity that comes from knowing loss, pain, and death to really do it justice.

Early in December, San Francisco Performances hosted an art song recital by Elza at the San Francisco Conservatory. I've never been a lieder, chanson, or European art song afficionado, so most of the concert was wasted on me, but again, Elza's voice is a thing of wonder and the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable. (For more on the actual music, click here for Axel's account and the Last Chinese Unicorn's take.)

Elza is taking on an insane amount of work right now, and I worry a bit about her just surviving it all, but she's tough and smart and has been seriously gifted by god, so it's going to be interesting to hear what she does next.

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