The mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard made a noteworthy Metropolitan Opera debut last fall as Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette, demonstrating a lively stage presence and a radiant lyric voice. On Friday she proved that she is also confident on the recital stage, making her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall, ably accompanied by the pianist Brian Zeger.
A New York native with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Juilliard, Ms. Leonard offered an eclectic program including works by Hugo Wolf, Rachmaninoff and Schoenberg, and American songbook standards.
Ms. Leonard began with songs by the Cuban composer Joaquín Nin, including a heartfelt rendition of Alma, sintamos, a mother’s lament for her child.
Next came selections from Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch. Ms. Leonard vividly illuminated the contrasting moods, from the nastiness of “Do Be Quiet” to the beseeching tone of “You Young Men.”
She seemed fully warmed up and in her element in sensual, perfumed French songs by Reynaldo Hahn, which showed her silvery warm voice and elegant phrasing to great effect. She was also persuasive in Manuel de Falla’s Seven Spanish Popular Songs and selections by Rachmaninoff and Schoenberg.
As encores she offered a soulful rendition of the zarzuela aria “De España vengo” and an impassioned, nuanced performance of “Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle?” from Roméo et Juliette.
The New York Times, Vivien Schweitzer, March 2008