Samantha Hankey: Aural Ambrosia

We’ve had the distinct pleasure of following mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey’s career ever since her senior year at the Juilliard School. A very deserved winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions (coming out of the NY region!) in 2017, Samantha’s career has taken off spectacularly, debuting at many of the world’s greatest opera houses including The Metropolitan Opera (six roles in her debut year–unprecedented?), Barcelona’s Gran Theatre, and the Bayerische Staatsoper, among others. Along the way we’ve watched Samantha grow from college student to star.

And what a star she is! Last night’s recital at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center was a relevation. Opening with Haydn (Arianna a Naxos) and Debussy (Chanson de Bilitis), the evening moved into ground zero for Samantha’s art: Richard Strauss, served in two delectable courses before and after intermission. Alban Berg (7 Lieder) and Manuel de Falla (7 canicones populares españolas) completed the evening. For those scoring at home, that’s four different languages over the course of the evening (the Haydn is in Italian), all sung with perfect diction I might add. Samantha’s golden tone and natural were on full display all evening, but her artistry is what stood out clearest. Sensitively accompanied by Brian Zeger, Samantha dug deep into Debussy’s hazy sonic landscapes, creating an intimate world where music is at its most natural and unexpected. But it is, as always with Samantha, the Strauss that leaves the most lasting impression. One of the great songwriters in history, Strauss’ vocal line was clearly communicated, at once echoing Wagner and anticipating 1920s German cabaret. Often described as a composer out of time, Samantha’s performance rooted Strauss clearly in, if not at the center of, the development of the German School. Her lone encore, the Composer’s aria from Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos provided a fitting bookend for the evening and a tantalizing glipse at the future.

A truly great Straussian is on the verge of international superstardom. This May and July, she returns to Munich to sing Der Rosenkavalier (Octavian). And she will reprise a version of last night’s concert at Wigmore Hall in London on May 22nd. Opera fans taken note.

More on Samantha at https://www.samanthahankey.com/

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