On Sunday, April 30, ABS hosted a special event at a stunning home in Napa Valley. Guests were served food and champagne before being treated to a recital by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Steven Bailey. The following weekend, Kyle performed the role of John the Evangelist in ABS’s performances of Handel’s La Resurrezione. In between, we caught up with Kyle to discuss his busy week with ABS.
1) While ABS is known as a premier Baroque ensemble, we enjoy occasionally showcasing our soloists in other repertoire during special events. How did you come to choose works by Schumann, Hahn, and Ives for your recital?
The event was graciously hosted in a beautiful gathering room in the country, and as it took place on the last day of April, I thought it appropriate to showcase various languages, both musical and poetic, which approached the subject of Spring. In order to do this, it was necessary to select composers and poets of different backgrounds. By combining the personal and colloquial language of Ives, the emotional language of Schumann, and the atmospheric and subtly nostalgic language of Hahn, I was able to create a program which (hopefully) gave a three-dimensional picture of Spring.
2) House concerts by their very nature provide a more intimate experience for the audience. Does that intimacy create tangible differences for you, the performer, during the performance? Does it change your approach to the music?
It is difficult to say that my approach to the music is tangibly different in recital, but I am confident that the experience is different for the audience. Whether I am performing on the opera, concert, or recital stage, my goal as a singer is the same: to communicate. These three venues offer different benefits to the listener, but all have that common goal for me. The song recital deserves as much attention as any other genre, for its vast and distinctly intimate repertoire, and for its vulnerable atmosphere. I am grateful to Maestro Thomas and to ABS for presenting me in this setting.
3) Your recital was a one-on-one collaboration with pianist Steven Bailey, and in many ways it was a dialogue between your two musical minds. When you perform with the full forces of ABS, do you think of the orchestra and choir as a singular entity, or do you feel in the moment as though you’re simultaneously collaborating with Jeffrey Thomas and the numerous musicians? Does this change how you respond to the music?
The more musicians, the more streams of stimuli to which you respond! It is a wonderful experience performing with the sterling artists of the American Bach Soloists, every time. Each aspect of their core repertoire is critically important; from the obbligato soloists, to the chorus, to the Baroque orchestra as a whole. Under the clear and brilliant musical direction of Jeffrey Thomas, we are all able to effectively add our voices to the whole, making the combined impact thrillingly potent.
4) Looking back on your recent performances of Handel’s La Resurrezione, what would you like audiences to know about your role as John the Evangelist in that monumental oratorio?
Those were my first performances of La Resurrezione. I was overwhelmed by the work’s brilliance. Each character in the story has his or her own point of access to the drama, and to the absent character of Jesus. The libretto is beautifully written, set perfectly by a composer who truly stands apart for his ability to convey the layered dramas extant in human passions. The character of John the Evangelist is painted as a man of self-discipline and great compassion. His music speaks in an ever hopeful and calming voice to the characters of the story, as well as to each person in the audience. What an honor it was to have been a part of the season finale with some of the best storytellers in music.
For more information about Kyle Stegall, visit his web site: kylestegall.com