(above: Julie Gunn, Nathan Gunn, and the private dancer, Sonia Warfel. Photo credit: Thanks to Bradley.)
Last night at Zankel Hall, a former subterranean movie theater in the massive armory of Carnegie’s 57th & 7th enclosure (so very subterranean that the walls were shared with the local subway line, which roared by almost continuously), baritone Nathan Gunn and wife Julie held a sold-out, short performance for an intimate crowd.
With Julie on the ivories and Nathan singing, there was also a woman who performed an interpretive dance throughout the sets, doing like the whole, “I’m washing my laundry on an old scrub board” pantomime. The all-English language program started with Frank Ferko's “Five Songs on Poems of Thomas Merton”, (Ferko took a bow from the audience during the very brief curtain call – with no encores either) and laid the formula for the rest of the evening: seriously yawn inducing music, unchallenging vocal lines, and really long piano breakdowns.
Julie and Nathan were dressed informally, she in a v-neck black sleeveless shirt coupled with black pants, and he in an all-black suit ensemble. The dancer was equally in all black, a mandarin-style blouse and yoga pants. At the wood backboard of the stage, the words to the first poem, “In Silence”, trailed across in a light projection, as was the protocol for many of the following works.
Julie rocked the conservative look, but Gunn was hurting in an ill-fitting, too-large suit. Shirtless would have been much better (heyll, even in a t-shirt & jeans would have been a better choice). Gunn and the dancer swirled around each other as Julie plucked at the keys under filtered lights that swarmed from blue to gold to green. Ferko's composition was um, you know…very minuet-like styling that would give way to waltzy ballroom thang. “Reduced to This” was basically Satie’s first Gymnopédie rehashed...although it was during “Reduced to This” that Gunn departed from a very straight-forward, reserved, concentrated, and stoic presentation...and finally experimented with the word play of the Thomas Merton text…but only a teasing glimpse.
Samuel Barber's "Hermit Songs" (Opus 29) didn't offer anything terribly enticing in their 10-set list, although #6, Sea Snatch, won the award for the best named work of the evening. O yae flapping sea snatch. I was bored dot com. Of the tri-state blogging scene, Susan was there also.
"Please do not turn the page until the end of the song," was stamped at the bottom of each page of the lyric insert, but, "Please do not leave the performance until it has finished," would probably have been a better choice.