We are up in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula this week, performing with the Pine Mountain Music Festival. This year, disappointingly, we are not presenting an opera, but I have been enjoying the symphony concert.
The highlight for me is Sibelius’s Luonatar – it’s the shortest work on the program but a thrillingly dark and intense ride. Our soprano soloist, Mary Bonhag, is absolutely marvelous. Her sound is rich and pure and colorful and ashen and huge and intimate and perfect. The liquid sounds of the Finnish language resonate deeply with the ancient mythical poetry of this work, and Mary brings an otherworldly quality to the performance that just sends chills up my spine, in the best way possible.
She is fascinating to watch as well. When I see great instrumental soloists play with us I am often struck by their combination of physical relaxation and perfectly honed muscle control. This is something which immediately stood out to me about Mary’s singing.
As she stands around chatting with us before and after her piece, she looks like a normal person. A normal very pretty person with great posture, but not out of the ordinary. When she begins to sing, though, her body changes. Everything is loose and taut all at the same time. The impression she gives is that her very slim torso is an enormous helium balloon. Filled with open space and lightness, not resting on her hips but loosely tethered to them. Her arms float lightly away from her body, so nothing remains to inhibit or compress the resonating chamber.
And then this enormous voice flows out from this tiny little body. The eeriness (to me) of the Finnish vowels only adds to the weird and wonderful quality of seeing someone so relaxed create something so intense.
Of course this level of calm intensity is a goal of mine. Has long been, will continue to be. I’ve just never seen anyone so perfectly demonstrate it. I don’t think I do it nearly as well as she does but I want to.
We had our first concert on Thursday night, but there’s one more Sunday afternoon. Details HERE.