On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Madigan Faculty Recital, “Nouveaux Amis” (“New Friends”), was held in the evening. a Voice faculty member and mezzo-soprano Lauren Curnow Madigan, who teaches individual private voice lessons at Muhlenberg, was accompanied by fellow Music Department faculty member Vincent Trovato on the piano; Margaret Jackson ‘19 played the viola for two pieces. The recital featured the works of Rossini, Debussy, Brahms, Argento, Sondheim and Weill. Madigan earned her Masters in Opera Performance at The Curtis Institute of Music and her Masters in Music at Juilliard. Madigan is an alumna of Muhlenberg College, having earned her B.A. here in Theatre Arts and English.
Students, professors and community members attended the recital. Madigan instantly lit up the Recital Hall when she walked in wearing a long navy dress adorned with glitter that sparkled throughout her performance almost as much as she did. Madigan’s clear voice filled the entirety of Recital Hall with ease. The recital included pieces in Italian, French, German and English.
“The pieces were all things that I hadn’t really done before, so I wanted to expand my repertoire and try things that I had always heard about, but had never attempted,” said Madigan. “I have not done a lot of recital work, which is why I wanted to do what I did for this performance.”
Utilizing her incredible vocal range and strong vibrato, Madigan began her performance with Gioachino Rossini’s “La Regata Veneziana: Tre Canzoni in Dialetto Veneziano”. The recital truly was an auditory and visual experience. Madigan’s background as a thespian shone through during the entire recital; her body movements and facial expressions were highly expressive and fit perfectly with the music. At the end of each piece, Madigan would pause, gazing up, and then break out into an elated smile. Madigan truly got into the music; following one of Claude Debussy’s pieces, she sighed, clutching at her chest, before drawing her hands together in front of her face. In another, Madigan squinted her eyes and brought her fists up to the music.
Jackson joined Trovato and Madigan on stage for two of Johannes Brahms’ works. The rich, full sound of the viola flowed into the lovely piano music and complemented Madigan’s strong, beautiful vocals; all three blended together splendidly. The audience was attentive and engaged throughout the performance, either following along with the lyrics in the program booklet or hanging onto Madigan’s vocals and theatrical performance.
After a brief intermission, Madigan and Trovato returned to the stage to perform the second half of the recital. Madigan began with Dominick Argento’s “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf.”
“One of the big pieces for me was the Argento cycle,” said Madigan. “ Virgina Woolf is interesting to begin with, and the diary entries are her words, and it’s just incredibly fascinating the way her mind works, and Argento’s musical settings are also fascinating. I thought it was also a really good acting challenge psychologically and musically.”
Other pieces, though, did not come quite so naturally to Madigan.
“I have not sung enough Rossini in my life,” admitted Madigan. “I kind of shied away from it because I’m scared of it because there’s a lot of fast notes you have to move your voice to; but now I’m not so afraid of Rossini and it was super fun to sing. The French repertoire — I’ve never sung Debussy; I just wanted to indulge in that music because it’s so lush and beautiful. It’s cathartic for the voice.”
The last two songs in the program that Madigan performed were Stephen Sondheim’s “No One is Alone” and Kurt Weill’s “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” Madigan performed Sondheim’s moving piece with great passion, and her execution of Weill’s was quite amusing — not only was the song playful, but Madigan made it a true performance by exaggerating her facial expressions and stomping her feet at certain points for emphasis. The recital truly highlighted Madigan’s range of musical styles as an artist.
Speaking to her time at Muhlenberg, Madigan said, “Muhlenberg was great; I can’t say enough about my time here. Every class that I took stretched me as a person; it stretched my way of thinking; it opened so many doors to the way that I thought about things and the way that I perceived different ideas. I was really blown away by my education here, and it was a really nice place to be; it was full of really great and inspirational people. I did a lot of great shows and have a lot of wonderful memories. As a performer, I would say that it prepared me to take the next step, which is exactly what happened. I got a lot of really great performance experience here in the classroom and on stage. I had a wonderful voice teacher and acting teachers who helped me be vulnerable and step outside the box and learn about what I could do. They really set me up for the future.”
At the conclusion of her performance, Madigan thanked her fellow performers and the audience. “I would like to end with one more piece if you would indulge me,” continued Madigan. “The way the world is right now, we need to think of love, acceptance, vulnerability and being truthful most of all.” Madigan then sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
“There are so many things right now that can really weigh you down and that have made people incredibly depressed and kind of withdrawn because it’s getting so heavy every time you turn on the news,” Madigan said. “It’s like you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time, and I think when you do things like this, it can take people out of that for just a short amount of time; hopefully it will give some people respite and a distraction, a chance to hear something that is hopeful. Hopefully, we as musicians are creating something beautiful.”