But Forsythe, singing seven full-length arias (plus duets and other ensembles, everything extremely high and extremely convoluted), was the star she needed to be. Her top range has opened up, so she's now hitting those stratospheric high notes at full volume yet keeping the round sweetness of her tone. She seemed as dewy fresh at the end of the evening as she had sounded three hours earlier. She's an actress with an endearing and knowing slyness — she can be simultaneously flirtatious and deeply loving, girlish and regal. This is a role she was born to play, and aren't we lucky to be around to hear her?
The Discovery Ensemble
Courtney Lewis and the Discovery Ensemble, whose audience is happily enlarging, presented a program at Jordan Hall that consisted mostly of pieces of music that were either genuine Baroque or that derived from Baroque music — as if everything were leading up to — or away from — the Bach Orchestral Suite No. 4 that closed the program.
Lewis and his crackerjack young professional orchestra started out with what felt to me like the best event of the afternoon: a rare performance of Mozart's early Symphony No. 28, in C, composed at the end of his visiting years in Salzburg, when he was about 17. It's not as thoroughly inspired (or familiar) as the landmark Symphony No. 29, Mozart's first symphonic masterpiece, composed only a few months later (which actually has a more ambitious grounding in Baroque polyphony). But it's next-to-top-drawer Mozart and deserves more hearings. The performance was youthfully brilliant, with wonderful leaps from declamation to hilarity (it opens with two repeated pairs of descending chords, like a Baroque concertmaster pounding his stick on the stage calling us to attention, then shifts instantly to something like the musicians giggling at the pomposity of this concertmaster). The unwinding of the minor-key episode in the slow movement was magical, as were the fireflies in the Presto finale and the charming "happy wanderer" tune.
This was followed by a bravura concert piece by Astor Piazzolla, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, four independent pieces for violin, electric guitar, piano, bass, and bandoneón rearranged for orchestra by Leonid Desyatnikov (not acknowledged in the program) as a kind of violin concerto, suggested by Vivaldi's fabulous four violin concertos, The Four Seasons. Piazzolla's Summer section even begins with a quotation from Vivaldi's Winter (apparently a gesture to show the opposition of seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres). Did it matter that the summer and winter movements actually sound as if they were reversed? The most original effects are loud drum-like bass pizzicatos, and the bowing above the violin bridge that make the violins sound like scratchy giant maracas. Everything seems derived from tango music, and all four movements together are really too long and repetitive. But with a soloist with the snap musical mind of 25-year-old Joshua Weilerstein, the Discovery Ensemble's former concertmaster (he's now an assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic), how could you not cheer the ease and infectious spontaneity of his performance, and the obvious pleasure he was taking in it?