On Friday, Geneseo students had the unique opportunity to experience the talent and art of opera in a recital by assistant professor of voice Pamela Kurau, a seasoned soprano who has performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
Wadsworth Auditorium was far from filled, but that did not stop Kurau from filling the space with her booming vocals and treating those who chose to come to an array of work by well-known American operatic composers.
The stage for the performance was noticeably bare and stark. A white wall formed the background, and only a piano and a music stand took up space in front. The lack of decoration kept the audience's attention on the performers and not on the stage.
Structurally, the recital was quite formal. Friend and collaborator Joseph Werner, principal pianist for the Rochester Philharmonic and graduate of Eastman School of Music, joined Kurau on stage. Both musicians walked on stage, performed a song or collection of songs, and then walked off stage, only to walk back on for the next section.
For two songs, the singer's husband Peter Kurau, an accomplished horn player who also is a member of the Rochester Philharmonic, joined Kurau and Werner. Peter Kurau has also taught master classes in multiple countries in conjunction with the United States Information Agency's Artistic Ambassador's program.
The music itself was a startling display of beauty mixed with raw power, intensity and determination to fully express the potential of opera. Pamela Kurau performed seven pieces, many made up of smaller collections of songs, and each was a unique experience. Each piece had a story to tell, with emotional merit that made it valuable not only as a vehicle for the singer's voice, but as a piece of art in and of itself.
The trademark of opera, and in particular the trademark of good opera singers, is the distinct vibrato. Some of the biggest moments of the recital were when Kurau sustained a note for an extended length of time while keeping a perfect vibrato.
Kurau's crystal clear voice rang out over the whole auditorium, and no one could argue that she had vast amounts of talent as a singer in general, not just in an operatic sense. She belted her way through vocal runs with swift ease, and whenever she extended her upper range, the intensity of the notes and her voice could be felt deep inside.
The general consensus says that opera is not for everyone. Pamela Kurau's performance, however, did not at all require knowledge of the vast history of opera or any of the subtleties of operatic singing. All it required was an open mind.
Even a person who has never experienced opera in his or her life could have heard her and fallen in love with the distinct vocal art of opera. Pamela Kurau is indeed a talented member of the musical community in Geneseo, and her performance was much appreciated.