British soprano Ruby Hughes makes her U.S. debut with pianist Julius Drake and a far-reaching program that features German lieder by Mahler and Schubert, French chansons by Debussy, Ravel’s Hebrew melodies and a set of cabaret songs by Benjamin Britten.
After studying voice at the Royal College of Music in London and at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich, Hughes made her professional debut in Vienna just six years ago. At The Frick Collection, Hughes is accompanied by distinguished pianist Julius Drake. Among many others, Drake has shared the stage with fellow Brits such as Ian Bostridge, Gerald Finley and Dame Felicity Lott.
The first half of Hughes’s U.S. debut recital was all-German, beginning with a dark set of nocturnal songs by Franz Schubert. Then she moved on to Gustav Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder, five sensitive settings of romantic poetry by the 19th century German poet Friedrich Rückert. Mahler set the first text, Liebst du um Schönheit or “If you love for beauty,” as a gift to his wife Alma.
Hughes closes the program with works by fellow Brits. Inspired by 1930s Berlin nightlife, poet W.H. Auden wrote the words for Benjamin Britten’s set of four cabaret songs. In a review of this performance, Opera News magazine raved that Hughes channeled “a slightly different aura — the young Julie Andrews as Sally Bowles,” a reference to the racy Christopher Isherwood character adapted for the stage musical Cabaret.
Radio program playlist:
Franz Schubert: Nocturnal Songs
Der Wanderer an den Mond, D. 870 / 1826
Abendstern, D. 806 / 1824
Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D. 774 / 1823
Im Abendrot, D. 799
Gustav Mahler: Ruckert-Lieder
Liebst du um Schönheit
Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!
Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Maurice Ravel: Deux Melodies Hebraïques
Benjamin Britten: Cabaret Songs
Tell Me the Truth about Love
— Ruby Hughes, soprano; Julius Drake, piano.
Franz Schubert: Nachtstück, D. 672
Franz Schubert: Ständchen, D. 957 (from Schwanengesang)
Claude Debussy: Chansons de Bilitis
Trad/Arr. by Britten: O Waly Waly (encore)