More than 100 local opera fans attended Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” at The MET Live in HD on Saturday.
If you were spellbound by “Lenski’s Aria,” you can hear it again Friday at an unusual Fort Lewis College recital. In addition to Tchaikovsky’s famous farewell song, there also will be a little Brahms, Bellini and Verdi.
The FLC Artist in Residence program launches Friday with pianist Robert Spillman and a host of soloists. Tenor Curtis Storm will sing “Lenski’s Aria” and “Nessun Dorma” from Verdi’s “Turandot.” Other performers include soprano Veronica Turner, mezzo soprano Charissa Chiaravalloti, clarinetist Joshua Mietz and pianist Lisa Campi Walters.
Why such an array of soloists when Spillman is the artist-in-residence?
For decades, Spillman has been one of the country’s top collaborative pianists. That is a relatively new term for what used to be called an accompanist. The shift in terminology isn’t a small thing; it represents a sea change in musical thinking and performance.
For centuries, recitals have centered on big-name soloists. Accompanists rarely got credit, let alone equal billing. That has changed. Today’s recitals are appropriately seen as collaborative efforts. Spillman has been at the center of the shift as a performer and pedagogue.
Spillman is professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has championed the idea of collaborative performance and enjoyed an illustrious international career.
After earning two degrees from the Eastman School of Music, he studied in Germany on a Fulbright Scholarship. That led to seven years in West Berlin solidly beginning his career as what was then referred to as an accompanist. When he returned to the States, he joined the Eastman faculty. In 1985, he wrote his first textbook and in 1990 his second. His third, Poetry into Song, was published by Oxford University of Press in 1995. It was at the Eastman School that I first heard and reviewed Spillman, performing with, among others, the beloved mezzo soprano Jan DeGaetani.
At Eastman, Spillman not only taught piano but began a long career coaching opera singers. When he joined the CU faculty, he also became co-director of the Opera Center at Aspen.
Thanks to FLC vocal professor Veronica Turner, Spillman has been invited to FLC for a few days of coaching, teaching and performing.
“During my husband’s time at CU,” Turner said of clarinetist Josh Mietz and his graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, “he and Bob (Spillman) became very good friends.” Consequently, Turner got to know Spillman, too, and their friendship has continued.
“I brought up the idea of bringing a collaborative pianist here,” Turner said in an interview last week. “Since Bob’s retirement from CU, he has been doing a lot of accompanying and vocal coaching.”
Spillman’s Thursday master class (3:30 p.m.) is free and will feature 10 FLC students, five soloists and five collaborative performers. The more formal concert will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. Both are in Roshong Recital Hall. If you love opera or only want to get a sampling, don’t miss these unusual offerings.
email@example.com. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.