April 12, 2011

Edwin Crossley-Mercer

A twenty-nine year old lyric baritone with a beautiful voice, handsome countenance and abundant stage presence, Edwin Crossley-Mercer is making his mark in Europe having already sung a 'sublime' Wintereise recital at the Museé d'Orsay, and the Harlequin in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos with the Opéra de Paris.





Originally trained as a clarinetist, Crossley-Mercer sings long lines with 'the beauty and line of a wind player.' His technical resources? They are remarkable as evidenced in his excellent diction, beautiful mezza voce and full 'open throat,' three key things that were expected from great singers of the past. The only place where he seems to be uncomfortable is in singing forte at the very top, where, as my teacher would say, "the voice turns over." That said, he keeps the voice fully vibrating, which is what many recitalists neglect in the desire to be expressive. Their quasi-falsetto crooning is deplored by old-timers who believe that full even tone at every dynamic level is a feature of the Old Italian School.

The recital below of French Mélodie was recorded at the Academic Capella Saint Petersburg with Simjon Skigin at the piano in July 2010. My favorite piece? Les chemin de l'amour. A song that has been imprinted in the mind as that for a soprano, Crossley-Mercer makes it his own. (Note: May 11th, 2011: since the original video is now unavailable, I have replaced with one that features only one song from the recital.)

I look forward to hearing him in New York soon, both as a recitalist and on the operatic stage.

One last matter comes to mind from the historical part of my brain. Is Mr. Crossley-Mercer related to Ada Crossley, who studied with Mathilde Marchesi? Now that would be interesting.



9 comments:

  1. To have attained such acknowledgement in Baroque music, recitals and opera (in which the ascending schedule of roles must be carefully complied with) is exceptional, so much so that none of his contemporaries - even those ten years older - has achieved as much. It ought to be emphasised that vocal training in the baritone register takes caution and is successfully managed in the long term. Soprani and tenors are expected to be on stage much earlier, and we must remember that too much too soon can quickly lead to "burn-out". We have not see the like of such a baritone for a very long time, and I hope that Americans will soon take the initiative of asking him to perform for them. Mr Crossley-Mercer is not related to Ada Crossley, the revered Australian singer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your comment.

    It would have been quite a long shot to be related to Ada Crossley seeing that she had no children! Still- the common name suggested a genealogical connection.

    Your intimation that there is an 'ascending schedule of roles' in opera is heartening to hear, seeing that all too many managers do not seem to have knowledge of this aspect of career development.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Many managers will "throw" what they can at whomsoever they have under their charge, without any consideration for vocal evolution, natural and trained. However, if the person being managed is most carefully conscious of the necessity to ensure that the technique acquired is in phase with the roles accepted by the manager, then at the base of it all, foolish, costly and sometimes irreversible mistakes can be avoided. To my knowledge, the operatic roles accepted by Mr Crossley-Mercer have always respected this crescendo of demands on his voice, never have accepted what was not comfortably within his grasp at a given moment. I am confident that there will be compliance between the upward trend of the role curve and the sense involved in accepting what is increasingly demanding on the voice which matures in its training to embrace these roles. It has been a long, but natural, upward trend since Guglielmo at the Festival d'Aix-en Provence and Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos at la Bastille in December. This baritone has great talent in baroque music, Mélodie française, Lieder (Schubert, Wolf, Mörike, Strauss and others) and opera; in the latter he has always proceeded with the caution described above and it is not my belief that this consistency of his is liable to lose its substance.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Daniel, you've aroused my curiosity, esp. as regards this baritone's interpretation of "Les Chemins d'Amours", a number I'll forever associate with Jessye Norman's splendid account. (Do you know her recital album of French mélodies from the late 70's / early 80's? Norman at her very best!)
    Anyway, I couldn't watch the video as it's not available to us European viewers, but that won't stop me. :-)
    Cheers,
    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  5. Michael- you may find the video on a Utube search?

    I do remember the recital album you write of. It was also the period where Norman recorded Strauss' Four Last Songs- if I am not mistaken. Curiously, I sang with her once, in Central Park with the Met Chorus, at Lady Diana's memorial service. At that occasion, she sang Dido's Lament.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There is an excerpt now on YouTube from Othmar Schoeck's "Lebendig Begraben" sung in public in Weimar in September by Mr. Crossley-Mercer; the conductor was Sir Roger Norrington. I have never heard this work sung in public; Mr. Dieskau recorded it in memory of his friend Schoeck, but I have no recollection of this extraordinarily challenging work being performed in public. The French-Irish baritone gave an outstanding performance.
    Incidentally, his "Les Chemins de l'Amour" is no longer available in Europe either; it is classified as "private".

    ReplyDelete
  7. And here is another excerpt: Der Schönste Tannenbaum from "Othmar Schoeck's Lebendig Begraben" by Crossley-Mercer:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN9rWe6DaWk
    Exceptional indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Sir,

    Mr Crossley-Mercer, on whom you were kind enough to comment a few years ago has since sung in Los Angeles as Figaro under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, debuted at Baldwin Wallace in Cleveland, recorded a CD written by Michael Linton in Nashville called "Carmina Catulli" accompanied by Jason Paul Peterson and presented this work at Carnegie Hall last year. These are only some of his past engagements.
    At present he is performing the role of Papageno at the Bastille opera in Paris; the same opera house has published an extract from the opera, "Ein Vogelfänger bin ich ja" in a video available at this address:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2nk32j_la-flute-enchantee-de-mozart_creation

    In the hope that you will enjoy this video from the Magic Flute, the stage setting of which is by the Canadian Robert Carsen.

    Yours sincerely.

    TC.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome your comments.