This opera performance was entirely songs from Schubert’s Winterreise, so the general feeling of the performance was depressing and solemn. Joyce’s face during the whole performance looked full of grief and sorrow. Even songs with an angrier sound, Joyce would lean on the piano as if her body was weak from depression. Joyce also held a book the entire performance, I believe this was her song sheet, but having it look like a book made her feel more isolated and that she was singing in solitude.
There were English lyrics on the screen above Joyce because all the songs were sung in German, but I tried my best to not look at the subtitles to get the most authentic experience. Because there was no story, it was only opera songs not a full opera performance, knowing what was being said was unimportant. I don’t speak any German, but the sounds I heard the most often were “sh” “dot” and light tongue rolling. I also heard a lot of harsh cut-offs after consonants. I imagine that this is a close sound to American opera.
This performance didn’t have many big opera notes, the kind we think of when imaging an opera. There was no coloratura, just soft slow notes in harmony with a piano. I was surprised by how often the piano mimicked Joyce by playing the same notes she was singing but in a lower key. This showed us how powerful Joyce’s voice is, as the piano would accompany her until she would start singing notes that were too high and strong for the piano to imitate.
For an opera performance, the piano had an extremely important role because of the balance between the piano and Joyce’s voice in every song. The piano would have to get loud and quiet in sync with Joyce which would happen suddenly. The loudness of the piano was so important, and the jumping between loud and quiet notes had to be precisely done. I believe this is why Joyce was accompanied by such a famous pianist. He made every transition sound so smooth.
My favorite songs of the night were Will-o’-the-wisp and Phantom Suns. Both these songs were very slow with minimal piano playing. The slow build-ups of the songs were performed wonderfully by Joyce. Will-o’-the-wisp in particular had a poetic sound to the lyrics.
I thought the end was fitting as there was a quiet standing ovation as Joyce walked around hugging Yannick.