Elsewhere in the operatic world — at the Metropolitan and throughout Europe — Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel is widely hailed as a masterful interpreter of the classic repertory of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner. It will take a little longer, however, for that news to reach Los Angeles, where his recital Sunday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, despite being sponsored by the Los Angeles Opera, was composed largely of far slimmer substance.
Yes, there was a small sop to the serious-minded early on, a handful of Robert Schumann art-songs, undermined by some show-off mannerisms by pianist Malcolm Martineau that drew audience snickers and by a management decision to print the German texts in the program book but then render them illegible by keeping the lights too low. (They were raised in the program’s second half, however, when the songs were mostly in English anyway.)
A commanding stage figure with voice to match, the 38-year-old Terfel went all out to make his near-capacity crowd feel at home, encouraging them to yell “bravo” when so moved and to sing along with all the familiar songs, of which the program offered several.
Seekers after more substantial fare, however, were doomed to disillusion. The program’s one Mozart offering, an encore presentation of the Serenade from “Don Giovanni,” was drowned out in audience laughter as Terfel leapt from the stage to offer flowers to female admirers of assorted ages seated in the front row.
Purely as a vocal circus, the evening made its points: an impressive display of controlled pianissimo, falsetto, immaculate command of five languages and the rich beauty of tone that has brought Terfel to a place of eminence among the dark-voiced singers of his generation.
L.A. Opera audiences will be able to witness those qualities put to better use in May, when the singer returns to star in Verdi’s “Falstaff” and memories of this week’s wasted event will have faded.