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Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, November 27, 2000

Mix of classics,
Broadway had
blurred effect

Bullet Tenor Jerry Hadley: With the Honolulu Symphony, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Blaisdell Concert Hall. Tickets $15-$55; half price for seniors, military and seniors. Call 792-2000

By Ruth O. Bingham
Special to the Star-Bulletin

AMERICAN tenor Jerry Hadley sang everything from operatic arias to Broadway melodies during yesterday's concert with the Honolulu Symphony. These "crossover" concerts are becoming increasingly popular. After all, performers survive by singing what audiences love, and what audiences love reflects today's blurred distinctions between so-called "classical" and "popular" musics.

It is easy to forget that the classical arias now held in such high esteem endured because of their popularity: audiences simply loved to hear them, in the same way audiences today love to hear Leonard Bernstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber songs. That said, it is equally easy to forget fundamental differences between those traditions, the most important possibly being singing style.

Hadley began the concert with Mozart's quintessentially Classical "Fuor del Mar" from Idomeneo, sang through the 19th-century's bel canto (Donizetti), and ended the first half with verismo Ciléa. In the second half, he sang operetta Lehár and Broadway musicals (Rodgers and Hammerstein), closing with an encore from Webber's through-composed musical Phantomof the Opera.

That encompasses quite a range. Hadley's best performances were not of a particular tradition, but of a match between voice and tradition: Lehár's "Dein is mein ganzes Herz," for example, or Bernstein's "Lonely Town" from On the Town. His voice was not without weaknesses -- he strained unduly for his highest notes, wavered in shifting between falsetto and full voices, he struggled occasionally for breath control -- its strengths were more remarkable. Hadley's head voice rings, and his high, forward placement allowed exceptionally clear enunciation. What a pleasure to be able to understand the text!

Hadley delivered his songs with genuine feeling, sometimes casually stuffing his hands in his pockets or catching his voice in a "sob" to portray the text. His voice is a lyric, not dramatic, tenor. It filled the hall but struggled against an overly large orchestra, which occasionally covered him, forcing him to sing extended forte to fortissimo passages.

The strain took its toll: quieter passages were difficult to control. There was no need for so large an orchestra: most of the songs, from Mozart to Rodgers's and Hammerstein's "I Have Dreamed" (The King and I) call for smaller ensembles.

Maestro Samuel Wong's readings fell into two camps: classical (Mozart, Donizetti) or Broadway (Bernstein, Rodgers and Hammerstein). The Viennese works (Lehár and Strauss), which belong to neither, sounded unabashedly American, like rambunctious hoedowns instead of the refined champagne of Viennese wit. The famous Viennese waltz "lag," so prominently absent yesterday, is designed to prevent stomping on the downbeat, even in the midst of Thunder and Lightning.

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