When Steven Blier, artistic director of the New York Festival of Song, was developing a musical program to be performed by the Filene Young Artists of the Wolf Trap Opera Company, he found himself gravitating to the great love songs written over the ages.
If you go Latin Days, American Nights with Steve Blier Where: The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna When: 3 p.m. Sunday Info: $38; wolf-trap.org
"I had this intuition that there were a lot of great songs, American songs, about the nighttime; making love at night, looking for love at night or being lonely at night," he said. "Latin American songs, they're sort of sun-drenched, they are all about nature, seeing things clearly, being outside and making love during the day." And so, from these musings, Blier put together a program of love songs he appropriately titled, "Latin Days, American Nights" to be presented Sunday at the Barns at Wolf Trap.
Blier, a professional broadcaster, writer, pianist and vocal coach serves as the program's artistic director. He chose all of the music, working the pieces loosely into a story line that he calls an arc, where one song comments on a second and one idea leads to another. The songs are interlinked rather than standing alone. And they are, indeed, all about love.
His cast of performers -- who share the musical works of Ginastera, Guastavino, Cole Porter, Thelonius Monk, George Gershwin and more -- are soprano Rena Harms, mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, bass Nicholas Masters and tenor Paul Appleby.
"I will be singing solo, ''Round Midnight,' the Thelonius Monk song and also one by Charles Griffith called 'Evening Song'," Appleby said. He will complete his second season at Wolf Trap, and will return to New York for his second year with the artist development program at the MET. "Then I sing the Latin song, 'Cita' by Guastavino, about a midday tryst."
Blier noted the program also includes five Cuban popular songs, as well as six Argentine pieces, which he calls "some of the most gorgeous, sparkling, sensual, melodic pieces that I know." The American songs range from Samuel Barber to Cole Porter with a rare, previously unpublished Gershwin song called "Evening Star."
"I believe people have a primal need to be sung to and communicated with through song," Blier said. "The essential core of truth in each piece -- that part where you feel, 'that's me, I've been there' -- that's what we're always looking for."