“Frauenliebe und -leben” is the opposite. The lover is mentioned constantly, everywhere, shaping practically every utterance. The piece sees a woman through the milestones she creates with a man: falling in love, getting married, having a baby, mourning his death. Lindsey tinged the narrator’s first blush of love with russet colors and a penetrating glint. A luscious line wove through “Du Ring an meinem Finger,” an almost sacred intimacy through “Süsser Freund, du blickest.” But the gushiness of “Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben” felt forced.
The intimate Board of Officers Room can make some vocal instruments sound big and overwhelming, but in Lindsey’s case, it allowed the audience a luxurious communion with her voice that isn’t possible in the Met’s cavernous auditorium. Her timbre, dark and occluded, is at once compelling and withholding; in vulnerable moments, she uses a threadlike straight tone.
In the 10 Fauré songs, Lindsey was often enchanting: the profound whispers of “Paradis,” the conversational warmth of “Prima verba,” the gorgeous exaltations of “Comme Dieu rayonne.” The poetry’s endless talk of sighs, sun, flowers and fruits, though, took on a certain sameness; in Lindsey’s interpretation, Eve is more demigod than human. Justina Lee’s piano, at times plodding, made Eden feel earthbound rather than exquisite, the hardiness that made her Schumann comfortingly solid rendered the Fauré stolid.
The concert ended with a brief set of Stephen Sondheim songs that introduced an imbalance to the evening. But only a pill could argue against hearing these wonderful pieces. Lindsey’s gentle, honest vibrato was disarming in the most poignant lines of “Losing My Mind,” but she struggled a bit with fitting her operatic technique to “Take Me to the World” and performed an abbreviated, less powerful version of “Being Alive.”
The Schumann and Fauré cycles both end with meditations on death, which is where Lindsey summoned her stagecraft. In the long postlude for piano that closes “Frauenliebe,” a motif from the first song emerges as a sad, mournful echo, a memory of happier times. Lindsey’s protagonist, with no words left to sing and no man left to love, seemed to age a lifetime in a moment. There was a sense that now her life, and the person she was to be, would begin.
Kate Lindsey and Justina Lee
Performed on Monday at the Park Avenue Armory, Manhattan.