The three song cycles on this release of music by American composer Jake Heggie all date from the 1990s, before his breakthrough with the opera Dead Man Walking in 2000. They're not commonly performed, and Eve-Song (1996), a modern reflection on the biblical Eve, is recorded in full here for the first time. It's possible to regard these pieces as steps in building the musical language that has made Heggie so successful, and as such they should be of great interest to the composer's fans. Aspects of this language include a convincing incorporation of popular musical elements into a basic art-song framework, on display in Natural Selection (1997). This cycle sets poems by San Francisco writer Gini Savage, depicting a young woman's social and sexual awakening. Traces of jazz and tango appear in the music, but it does not fall into either of those genres. Heggie's accomplishment has been to create a language flexible enough to reflect the elevated concerns of concert music but conversant enough with musical vernaculars that it seems of the present day, and the pairing of Natural Selection and the Songs and Sonnets of Ophelia (1999) could serve as an introduction to his style. He has a knack for the depiction of female characters, and all three of the protagonists of these cycles are female. Soprano Regina Zona produces a consistently beautiful tone, although her expressive range is a bit limited; the three young women Heggie explores come out sounding alike. Recommended for anyone interested in Heggie.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia|