Naxos American Classics Label
“Connection: Three Song Cycles of Jake Heggie”
Famed for his operatic music, Jake Heggie has always been a devoted and prolific songwriter. Three early song cycles for soprano and piano are featured in this release, each cycle exploring the many varied facets of the three women depicted, including Ophelia and Eve. Each was written for a specific singer and they all reflect Heggie’s personal and exciting lexicon of musical influences, ranging from folk and jazz, to art song and musical theater.
The three cycles are:
Natural Selection (1997)
Songs and Sonnets to Ophelia (1999)
Eve-Song (1996) – *first complete recording of this cycle
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“Soprano Regina Zona turns in splendid performances in all songs. She adapts to the chameleonic character of the songs with seeming ease, never missing a dramatic turn or falling short on a vocal challenge. Indeed, she hits the plentiful high notes with confidence and portrays the characters here with an unerring sense for their emotional state.”
“Jake Heggie composed these song cycles in the late 1990s, during his tenure as staff writer for San Francisco Opera. Each was written for a different soprano, all Adler Fellows, but here all three are given life by soprano Regina Zona…[In] “Animal Passion” her tone becomes appealingly ripe as she expresses her awakening sexuality…Zona is at her best in lively numbers like these, where her voice takes on added focus, and her direct and slyly self-knowing delivery is the driving force.”
“Creation opens with an insistent piano motif. When soprano, Regina Zona enters she has a fine, extremely musical voice…After a piano flourish that opens Animal Passion, the soprano enters in this lively setting with a tango rhythm. There is some particularly attractive piano writing. Regina Zona is really terrific in this song, one that really suits her voice. She gives much passion in the last line.Zona does a tremendous job with Alas! Alack! another faster song that again suits her voice so well. This is an amusing text which the soprano picks up so well….
Eve-Song (1996), a setting of texts by Philip Little (b.1950), offers a modern perspective on the biblical Eve. My Name opens gently as the soprano, Regina Zona vocalises with the piano before the words ‘Eve, Eve…’ subtly appear. There is fine, sensitive playing from Kathleen Tagg as well as beautifully shaped singing from Zona, whose lower textures are particularly fine. The song rises in drama with Heggie’s constant changes of rhythm, before the dissonant, quiet conclusion.
An undulating piano theme opens Even in this gentle setting. Regina Zona is lovely in her restrained beautiful, sensitive singing. Good is more upbeat with a syncopated piano rhythm well handled by Zona with fine control and understanding of the text.
Heggie’s way with rhythm works extremely well again in Listen, a setting that creates a kind of sensuousness around the words ‘My entire body ripples up and down…’ Snake introduces more jazz rhythms where Zona is in her element, handling the rhythms with real style and panache in this well conceived setting of the words ‘…Sweet, sour, salty, bitter. And the taste of air, Of rottenness.’”