Sylvia Stoner Entertains while "In Her Element" at Zankel

Posted by Sara Gangon

The Music Department presented operatic soprano and alumna Sylvia Stoner '94 at 8 p.m. last Friday Nov. 9 in the Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall as part of the Filene Alumni Concert Series.

The performance featured a selection of operatic pieces accompanied by pianist Ellen Bottorf, as well as jazz pianist Wayne Hawkins, Stoner's husband. The program, appropriately entitled "In Her Element," included pieces reflecting the forces of nature represented in four sections: Water, Air, Fire and Earth.

After graduating from Skidmore with a B.A. in Music and Theater, Stoner earned her master's in Vocal Performance at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and then her doctorate at the University of Kansas. She not only performs in operas and shows such as Narnia and Little Women, but is also a stage director, vocal teacher and coach. Despite her great success, Stoner seemed incredibly proud to return to her alma mater.

Stoner opened with the element of Water, represented by Antonin Dvorak's "Song to the Moon" from the opera Rusalka. A vibrant performer, Stoner let her voice soar over the hall as Bottorf accompanied, imitating the dramatic operatic performance of the piece. She then introduced her program, remarking that she felt delighted to be "back in her element" at Skidmore.

The second and third segments presented Air, with Franz Schubert's "Suleika I & II" and Fire, a performance of the "Letter Scene" from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky'sopera Eugene Onegin. Beautifully performed in German, "Suleika I & II," told a love story using images of the natural world. Stoner had played Tatyana in Eugene Onegin in 2003, and her passion for theater and opera was evident in her performance of the "Letter Scene."

The Earth section of the recital began with "Allah, Akbar!" from Karol Szymanowski's Songs of the Infatuated Muezzin. The Slavic musical literature Stoner selected was homage to her Polish heritage, and she performed "Allah, Akbar!" in Polish.

The next piece was followed by "Dawn Canticle," a piece written by Forrest Pierce specifically for Stoner and her husband. The piece showcased their combined talent, featuring jazz piano chords with a soprano vocal arrangement.

Stoner then performed "Moonfall" from Rupert Holmes' The Mystery of Edwin Drood, her very first audition selection for the Theater Department , and a song which she told the audience had always stayed with her. Stoner dedicated the piece to Professor Anne Turner, her voice teacher, who she said helped her get to where she is today. Stoner seemed elated to sing "Moonfall" again at the College and did so beautifully.

Stoner and her husband ended with a performance of "My Ship" from Kurt Weill's Lady in the Dark. This piece featured a jazz piano solo, bringing the jazz world and operatic world together. The two had great chemistry onstage performing and seemed to truly be in their elements.

Stoner and Bottorff returned to the stage to perform "Joy" by Ricky Ian Gordon as their encore. The piece is a favorite of the two, as Stoner told the audience, and their love for the piece was evident in watching them perform. With that, the recital ended, on a very high note.

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