Soprano Stephanie Lamprea releases her performance of Georges Aperghis' genre defining 14 Récitations for solo voice, highlighting her precise approach to the notation. These works, written in 1977-78, stretch the voice into fertile extended technique territory, mixing sensuality with virtuosity in ways that had a profound impact on the solo vocal repertoire.
Colombian-American soprano Stephanie Lamprea presents a virtuosic interpretation of 14 Récitations (1977-78), a concert-length avant-garde song cycle for unaccompanied female voice. Abandoning traditional use of text, the Récitations sets phonemes and vocal sounds with atonality, extended vocal techniques, puzzles, and repetitions. Throughout the opus, the listener witnesses a woman attempting in many ways to speak, but not being understood, and thus trapped in her trauma. “We see and hear a singer realizing a musical score, but at the same time we witness somebody who can’t speak properly…” Aperghis writes. “That is the human dimension of this work. We see people in their daily life struggle, people who are not very healthy, people with trouble expressing themselves - elusive mental portraits en miniature.” The resulting work is an ode to the dynamism and humanity of the voice, but it is also a manifestation of the woman’s complex journey of personal authenticity in a patriarchal world.
Written in 1977–8, George Aperghis’ 14 Récitations are among the most challenging masterpieces of contemporary solo vocal writing. The fact that Aperghis originally wrote them for the French comedian and singer Martine Viard offers a clue to their aesthetic. Each Récitation operates in a similar emotional register to a miniature opera, but with a plot that is unknown and a text that at best teeters on the edge of intelligibility (the texts are in French, but cut up into syllables and jumbled, sometimes using homophones borrowed from other languages). Yet their dramatic form – like that of comedy – exists independently of semantic meaning. Like comedy, too, they subvert and demolish stereotypes. Whatever little else we know of her, the woman portrayed in the 14 Récitations is angry, empowered, sexual, violent, scared and glorious. In short, she is – like all of us – messy.Read More
The 14 Récitations have been at the center of Lamprea’s repertory since 2017 (she performs them both as a solo voice and with dance, in versions co-choreographed with Laila J. Franklin (USA), Anne Goldberg-Baldwin (USA) and Penny Chivas (UK)). She finds that the range of timbres required by the piece, and the consequent emotional range of the work, opens up a larger space in which she can explore gender identity. Within traditional operatic pedagogy, the voice and body type of the singer determine the sounds that are available to them, within quite narrow parameters. In the 14 Récitations, however, the reverse is true, and is deliberately built in. Although the notated tessitura appears very large (from E3 to E6), at the extremes of low and high the pitches are deliberately approximate (and often blurred by other timbre indications), opening the work up to a range of female voice types and characterizations.
Working within this space led Lamprea to think about resonance, and the spaces within her own body that could act as resonating chambers for her voice. The timbres required in 14 Récitations offer an opportunity to sing the same note in multiple ways, and thus step outside the classical regime. This is most apparent in Récitation 3, in which a text is spoken rhythmically and across a grid of different and rapidly changing expressions (‘commanding’, ‘mocking’, ‘amorous – sensual’, ‘clown’, etc); and Récitation 4, subtitled ‘Requiem en couleurs (dans l’intimité)’, in which concrete, often extra-human sounds (described in indications such as ‘javelin throw’, ‘hydraulic pump’, ‘boiling water’, and ‘object passing in front of you at full speed’) cut into sustained pitches that are more emotionally determined (‘passive – cold – distant’, for example). But it is a condition of all the pieces, in which pitch (where it is even notated at all) is not the medium of expression but simply a vehicle for it. We have already seen, in Récitation 1, how pitch is equated to syllable. Récitations 5–7 apply a similar technique, while Récitation 13 replaces syllables of text with imitations of percussion instruments – pure timbre, with no intermediary text.
An architect of new sounds and expressions as a performer specializing in contemporary-classical repertoire, Lamprea uses her coloratura voice as a mechanism of avant-garde performance art, creating “maniacal shifts of vocal production and character… like an icepick through the skull” (Jason Eckardt).
– Stephanie Lamprea and Tim Rutherford-Johnson (edited from the liner notes)
Producers: Stephanie Lamprea, Eric Chasalow, Tom W. Green
All tracks recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, UK, December 2021 - May 2022
Recording engineer: Bob Whitney
Mixing Engineer: Eric Chasalow, April 2022 - July 2022
Mastering Engineer: Antonio Oliart, August - October 2022
Album Photography by Sam Walton, samwaltonphotography.com
Background image: “Photo of a Blurred Motion”, Loc Dang, Pexels
Design & layout: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com
Colombian-American soprano Stephanie Lamprea is an architect of new sounds and expressions as a performer, recitalist, curator, and improviser, specializing in contemporary classical repertoire. Trained as an operatic coloratura, she uses her voice as a mechanism of avant-garde performance art, creating “maniacal shifts of vocal production and character... like an icepick through the skull” (Jason Eckardt). She has been praised by Opera News for "her iconoclasm and fearless commitment to new sounds" and for her "impressive display of extended vocal techniques, in the honorable tradition of such forward-looking artists as Bethany Beardslee, Cathy Berberian and Joan La Barbara." Her work has been described as “mercurial'' by I Care If You Listen and that she “sings so expressively and slowly with ever louder and higher-pitched voice, that the inclined listener [has] shivers down their back and tension flows into the last row." (Halberstadt.de) Stephanie has received awards from the Concert Artist Guild, St. Botolph Club Foundation, the John Cage Orgel Stiftung, the Puffin Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Stephanie has performed as a soloist at Roulette Intermedium, Constellation Chicago, Sound Scotland, National Sawdust, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Casa da Música. She has collaborated with several leading new music ensembles and bands including the International Contemporary Ensemble, Wavefield Ensemble, So Percussion, Red Note Ensemble, Talujon, Guerilla Opera, and Post Coal Prom Queen. In 2022, Stephanie released her debut solo album, Quaking Aspen, on New Focus Recordings. Featuring new works for voice and electronics by Jason Eckardt, Wang Lu, Kurt Rohde, Hannah Selin, George N. Gianopoulos, and James May, the album was hailed by PopMatters.com as "a bold artistic statement that’s exciting and innovative... a magical, intense, and deeply satisfying journey." A passionate educator and speaker, Stephanie has taught and performed in residency for universities across the United States and Europe including the University of California at Davis, Temple University, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She has presented her artistic research for the Wildflower Composers (USA), the European Platform for Artistic Research in Music (London), and the 2021 Shared Narratives Conference (Scotland), and she was a featured TEDx Speaker for TEDxWaltham: Going Places. Stephanie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, where she worked with Maitland Peters and Lucy Shelton. She has received additional vocal training from Dr. Julian Kwok and coaching from soprano Sarah Maria Sun. Stephanie is a candidate for the Doctor of Performing Arts degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, under the supervision of composer/zoo-musicologist Dr. Emily Doolittle and co-supervised by Dr. Laura Gonzalez and Jean Sangster.http://www.stephanielamprea.com/
Georges Aperghis was born in Athens in 1945. He has lived and worked in Paris since 1963. His work is notably characterized by a questioning about languages and their meaning. His compositions, whether instrumental, vocal or for stage, explore the borders of the intelligible, he likes to create twisted tracks which allow him to keep active the listener (stories emerge but are suddenly refuted). Aperghis' music is not strictly linked to any dominant musical aesthetics of the contemporary musical creation but follows on his century by a dialogue with other forms of art and an extreme open-mindedness to the other. This otherness is combined with innovation when he includes electronics, video, machines, automatons or robots to his performances. Aperghis works closely with groups of interpreters who are entirely part of the creative process. They are comedians (Edith Scob, Michael Lonsdale, Valérie Dréville, Jos Houben), instrumentalists (Jean-Pierre Drouet, Richard Dubelski, Geneviève Strosser, Nicolas Hodges, Uli Fussenegger) or vocalists (Martine Viard, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, Lionel Peintre) . From the 90's he shared new artistic collaborations with dance (Johanne Saunier, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker) and visual arts (Daniel Lévy, Kurt D'Haeseleer, Hans Op de Beeck). The main european contemporary music ensembles have developed a working relationship with Aperghis through settled commissions that are now part of their repertory (Ictus, Klangforum Wien, Remix, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern, Intercontemporain, Vocalsolisten, the SWR choir). “Aperghis has certainly acquired the freedom to put himself on the high wire, to risk the fall. But the difference is he knows that when the acrobat fails, he doesn't fall into emptiness: he falls onto other wires, from which he can jump even higher!! You can negotiate with danger, play with it, turn it into a vanishing point on the horizon. In his case, he is always present. It re-emerges incessantly, all the time, whenever unforeseen elements are introduced; not to break with the formal chain of complexity, but to find other forms of expression.”* Recent distinctions: the Mauricio Kagel Prize in 2011, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement - Venice Biennale Musica 2015, the BBVA Foundation Award “Frontiers of Knowledge” in 2016 (category contemporary music), the Foundation Kaske-Munich in 2016, Grand Prix SACD 2018, Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2021.
*Excerpt from L'héterogénèse, an interview between Felix Guattari and Georges Aperghis transcribed by Antoine Gindt.
Few works in contemporary music challenge the upper-register vocalist like 14 Récitations, a demanding solo work by Greek composer Georges Aperghis written in 1977-78. He originally wrote the set of 14 movements for the French singer and actress Martine Viard, whose 1983 premiere recording has long been the standard. In performance, the work requires additional layers of theatrical and intense presence by the singer.
Colombian-American soprano Stephanie Lamprea goes all out in this forceful new account, where her virtuosity is complemented by total commitment and vivid imagination. The texts are written in French, but most of the movements break any meaning apart by splitting words into often nonsensical patterns built from unexpected intervallic leaps, throaty grunts, piercing screams, sensual exhalations, and tender cries. As explained in Tim Rutherford-Johnson’s finely observed liner note essay, Lamprea considered “the spaces within her own body that could act as resonating chambers for her voice” as she developed her interpretation—it’s been part of her repertoire since 2017. It’s hard to explain how difficult the work is, but consider the last and shortest movement: the singer shapes a tone over the duration of an inhaled breath, and she must also articulate a lengthy text over a single exhale, a two-part gesture repeated until she can’t continue.
— Peter Margasak, 3.07.2023
Stephanie Lamprea has nowhere to hide. In early 2022, she released Quaking Aspen, a stunning collection that featured her vocals accompanied by electronics, percussion, and spoken recitations by other artists. With her new album, she tackles a thorny piece for solo vocal and nobody else. What makes it even more challenging is that 14 Récitations – a concert-length avant-garde song cycle for unaccompanied female voice – abandons traditional use of text and, to quote the press materials, “set phonemes and vocal sounds with atonality, extended vocal techniques, puzzles, and repetitions”.
Composed in 1977 and 1978 by Georges Aperghis, 14 Récitations shows a woman attempting to speak but is not understood. The performer must demonstrate this frustrating trauma. The recording, performed in Glasgow, where Lamprea is partly based, is absolutely pristine, unadorned by any accompaniment. The listener can hear Lamprea as clear as a bell, and her interpretation of the trauma is perfect. This is not simply music; it’s performance art of the highest caliber. There is singing, shouting, screaming, laughing, all manner of vocal emotion.
The sing-song beginnings of “Recitation 1” sound like innocent vocal exercises, even when sped up and slowed down. There is anger and utter frustration apparent in the execution. Still, one can’t help but be transfixed not only by the breadth of emotion on display but also by the thespian nature of what is being performed. Lamprea is singing from the point of view of a woman on the verge of madness, and there is no other way to interpret her performance.
Lamprea emotes with a mix of anxiety and unhinged mirth as her words occasionally become a kind of gibberish. She occasionally becomes mocking in her tone, as the French words mix with non-verbal vocalizations, to the point that the lines between reality and insanity are blurred. By “Recitation 4”, she has moved on to a mix of droning and vocal effects that provide a unique variety to the kind of quasi-verbal performance she is flawlessly executing.
A stunningly masterful soprano, Lamprea reaches those glorious notes in “Recitation 5”, but eventually mixes in guttural growls and plenty of full-on screaming. It probably goes without saying that 14 Récitations is a wonderful album but probably shouldn’t be considered “background music”; it demands your full attention.
Throughout all the pieces of the song cycle, 14 Récitations ebbs and flows in this manner, whether it’s in the manic, whispering pronouncements of “Recitation 9”, the insane aria of “Recitation 12”, or the brief, hushed coda that is “Recitation 14”. Lamprea, a fearless genius of a performer, is constantly moving the goalposts and redefining modern music by tackling the most challenging compositions with bravura and passion.
— Chris Ingalls, 2.16.2023
In Georges Aperghis' "14 Récitations" the soprano voice is as naked as in the rose aria from Mozart's "Figaro". The first complete performance of the 1977/78 55-minute cycle without accompanying instruments was not until 2001 at Wien Modern with Donatienne Michel-Dansac. Stephanie Lamprea, the singer of this new recording, specialises in new music and One-Woman-Shows. Since 2017, she has been singing the „14 Récitations“ and sees this performance as a challenge worthy of her, in contrast to the part stereotypes of
traditional musical theatre. "A tone is a tone is a tone" only applies to conventional sound generation on instruments. But Lamprea ventures onto the highly virtuosic black-ice of whispering, whistling, breathing, hissing, screaming and (a few) sung tones. Her tour-de-force is a sportive vocal adventure of impressive proportions. (translated)
— Roland Dippel, 3.04.2023
ORIGINAL SPANISH TEXT
Desde que en 2001 Donatienne Michel-Dansac grabase por primera vez la integral de las Récitations (1978) de Georges Aperghis (Atenas, 1945), nadie salvo ella misma —que las repitió en 2012— se había atrevido, hasta ahora, a abordar el dificilísimo ciclo completo. Stephanie Lamprea (Nueva York, 1991), que las conoce muy bien, lo acaba de hacer, además, volviéndolas completamente suyas. Sus Récitations no sólo son excelentes; también desvelan algunos aspectos ocultos de la obra del compositor griego que, después de su escucha, parecen tan obvios que resulta extraño que nadie los haya descubierto antes.
Las Récitations de Lamprea son más sugerentes en términos expresivos que otras versiones existentes y están repletas de decisiones creativas sumamente inteligentes y atrevidas que, conjuntamente, presentan un mensaje muy personal. La joven soprano logra ‘humanizar’ las tensiones y esquizofrenias presentes en la música, navegando con naturalidad y espontaneidad por su complejo paisaje emocional. Debido, quizás, a su formación operística, Lamprea enfatiza acertadamente el componente dramático de las catorce piezas, realizando con él un trabajo de construcción formal sin precedentes. Resulta sorprendente que una obra como ésta, cuyo texto —como bien indica Tim Rutherford- Johnson en las notas— “se tambalea, en el mejor de los casos, al borde de la inteligibilidad”, se vuelva tan inteligible y comunicativa en sus manos.
Con este álbum, Lamprea demuestra que no sólo cuenta con una técnica vocal sólida y una gran inteligencia musical, sino que también posee ambición, coraje y una curiosidad que, en vista de otros proyectos suyos, parece insaciable; un conjunto de aptitudes que, si continúa así, augura un futuro muy prometedor para ella.
ENGLISH TRANSLATION (by Stephanie Lamprea)
Since in 2001 Donatienne Michel-Dansac recorded for the first time the integral of the Récitations (1978) by Georges Aperghis (Athens, 1945), no one except herself —who repeated them in 2012—had dared, until now, to tackle the very difficult full cycle. Stephanie Lamprea (New York, 1991), who knows it very well, just did, and further, making them completely hers. Her Récitations are not only excellent; they also reveal some hidden aspects of the work of the Greek composer who, after one listens, seem so obvious that it becomes strange that no one has discovered them before.
The Récitations by Lamprea are more suggestive in expressive terms than other existing versions and are full of highly creative, intelligent and daring decisions that, together, present a very personal message. The young soprano achieves to 'humanize' the stress and schizophrenia present in the music, navigating them with naturalness and spontaneity due to the cycle's complex emotional landscape. Due, perhaps, to her operatic training, Lamprea emphasizes rightly the dramatic component of the fourteen pieces, carrying out with it a work of formal construction without precedents. It is surprising that a work like this, whose text —as Tim Rutherford-Johnson rightly points out in his notes—“at best teeters on the edge of intelligibility”, becomes so intelligible and communicative in her hands.
With this album, Lamprea demonstrates that she not only has a solid vocal technique and great musical intelligence, but she also possesses ambition, courage and a curiosity that, in view of her other projects, seems insatiable; a set of aptitudes that, if she continues like this, augurs a very promising future for her.
— Jesús Castañer, 3.02.2023