Songs in Temecula: Natalie Mann and Ed Yarnell at the Merc

by Cynthia Leigh, community reviewer

OldTownArchesTemecula was established in 1859 with the opening of the first post office in the area, and the Old Town area retains many charming historical features. Your visit will be full of color and culture, and may include wine or olive oil tasting or a wonderful meal at one of the neighborhood’s many restaurants. There are boutiques and art galleries scattered among the whimsical and historical buildings that make Old Town Temecula what it is today. Music, too, can be heard on every street corner, and classical music is an unexpected addition to this now eclectic and unique community.

At the MERCOn the lovely afternoon of Sunday, Sept 21, the breeze was warm and caressing, the sky cloudless and clear, with the late summer sun glowing in the west. Such was the setting for an inspired performance of arias and art songs by soprano Natalie Mann and pianist Dr. Ed Yarnelle.  The event was hosted as part of “Classics at the Merc”, a weekly chamber recital series co-produced by the California Chamber Orchestra and Temecula Presents.  The series features a wide range of talent from Southern California and beyond, and has featured several of our Listers over the last few years.

The program began with Natalie singing one of my favorite arias, “Marietta’s Lied” from the seldom performed opera by Korngold, Die Tote Stadt. It was flawlessly executed, and a perfect choice for the rich color and timbre of her warm soprano.  The balance of the first half of the program was dedicated to works by Robert Schumann and Richard Strauss.

Natalie at the MERCIn Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, Ms. Mann first translated the text aloud to prepare her listeners for the young girl’s journey through true love, marriage, motherhood and sadly, the death of her beloved husband. In addition to her singing, what struck me were Natalie’s stillness and the joy in her expression.  Even though the song cycle ended sadly, I still felt a core of hopefulness in her portrayal.  Oh, but to be (as from the song in The King and I) “young lovers”!

The entire second half of the program was dedicated to contemporary American composers, and therefore sung in English. It started with “Trees on the Mountain” from Floyd’s Susannah, an audience favorite.  Then came the songs a variety of  composers, with some from Mann’s recent Albany Records release, Experience,  a world premiere recording of the amazingly beautiful songs of  Lori Laitman and American composer Richard Pearson Thomas, both of which were featured on the program.  A special treat were the jazz-infused songs of George N. Gianopoulos, who was in the audience, quietly smiling as she sang his Three Little Songs, Op.7.

Ed Yarnelle and Natalie MannAs always, Dr Yarnelle played masterfully, switching musical gears (and fingers) as he transitioned seemingly effortlessly from the well-known German masters of the 1800’s to the genius of the American composers of today.


Editor’s disclosure:  Natalie Mann is part of the Lauri’s List Team, and serves as our review coordinator.  As we couldn’t very well have her organize her own coverage, we arranged this coverage without her involvement, beyond the pictures she provided, per our request.  This is an excellent example of the “friendly coverage” we provide when time allows, and is not intended as a critique.  (In other words, yes, we’re biased.  But we’re really honest about it.)  –LDG

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