Melissa Andres, currently singing alto with Utah Chamber Artists, has an extensive background singing the soprano classical repertoire. Here she has provided a list of some of her favorite pieces from the vocal literature that have shaped her, musically and personally.
You can find Melissa’s playlist on Spotify HERE.
- Piano Concerto #2 – Sergei Rachmaninoff
As a long time performer and patron of classical music, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had never heard this incredible piano concerto until a non-musician friend invited me to the Utah Symphony to hear them play it. I was completely mesmerized throughout all three movements. I could barely breathe. This work has inspired multiple pop musicians and it’s not surprising why.
- Der Rosenkavalier: Act 3 Trio – Richard Strauss
I have had the honor of performing this exquisite trio a couple different times with some dynamite ladies that bring all the power and passion this trio deserves. Listening to this piece brings back memories of everything those performances meant to me. The tension, the drama, the exquisite harmonies. It’s one of those pieces that takes you on a journey, and you feel it in your soul.
- Peter Grimes: Embroidery Aria – Benjamin Britten
I learned this aria during my undergrad program, and it helped me gain an appreciation for modern opera. The long, meandering lines require a perfect legato, as if your voice is the embroidery thread. I was extremely fortunate to receive coaching on this aria with Christine Brewer, who has made a career of singing this role. To this day her performance of this aria remains my favorite.
- Samson et Dalila: Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix – Camille Saint-Saëns
Samson et Dalila was the first opera I ever saw. I was 16 years old, and I couldn’t believe that such a warm, luscious voice could exist. It wasn’t Olga Borodina in the performance I saw (as in this recording), but she was just as incredible, and to this day this is the aria that makes me wish I were a mezzo. For now, I’ll just sing alto with UCA.
- The Blue Bird – Charles Villiers Stanford
I can still remember standing nervously front and center in the Cathedral of the Madeleine, with the choir in a large circle around the audience. I worked extensively with Barlow on this solo to make sure it was perfectly in tune and I did the solo justice. I was no stranger to performing, but this piece is so exposed there was no room for error. Those long, sustained high notes. The moving line over the choir’s sostenuto. A simple piece that packs a big punch.
- Requiem, mvt 1. Introit. Requiem aeternam – W. A. Mozart
What playlist would be complete without Mozart? His Requiem was my first introduction to large choral works, and this was also my first professional singing gig, singing the soprano solo. I was hooked on the collaborative power of choir, orchestra, and solo voice after this experience.
- Wicked: For Good – Stephen Schwartz
I was first introduced to this heartwarming duet when fellow UCA singer Michelle Dean and I were invited to perform it together at a U of U awards event in the spring of 2014. I love the powerful message of positive female friendship it gives.
- Little Tree – Steven Heitzeg
We sang this in our Christmas concert during my second season with UCA. The poetry (by E. E. Cummings) impeccably captures childhood innocence and delight, and this piece has remained very precious to me. No Christmas season is complete for me without listening to it at least once.
- Give me the Splendid Silent Sun – Barlow Bradford
Walt Whitman’s powerful words with Barlow’s exquisite compositon. Need I say more? This is a piece that I have often found myself wishing I could perform solo as an art song, but there’s color and and texture that comes with the choral body that I could never replicate by myself. With our voices combined, we create something so special and I’m grateful to have been part of it.
- Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, variation #18 – Sergei Rachmaninoff
Another luscious Rachmaninoff piece. I first heard this while watching the movie “Somewhere in Time” as a child, and it has always been a favorite.
- Morgen!, Op. 27/4 – Richard Strauss
This was the first German art song that I studied as a young singer. I didn’t have the emotional maturity to understand the poetry back then, but now the words are even more beautful to me than the music. The last verse translates to: “And to the shore, the wide shore with blue waves, we will descend quietly and slowly; we will look mutely into each other’s eyes and the silence of happiness will settle upon us.”
- Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9, #2 – Frederic Chopin
I remember trying to learn to play this on the piano. My mother had one of those beginner piano books that had a very simplified version of this piece in it, and I played it over and over. When I became a little more advanced I pulled out the full version, but unfortunately I have always sung much better than I played piano!
- Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo – Pietro Mascagni
My favorite part of the one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana has always been this beautiful Intermezzo. No one is singing, there’s not much action on the stage. It’s just a moment to quietly reflect on the music and consider the plight of the heroine. She finds herself pregnant out of wedlock, and trying desparately to find a way out of this difficult situation. The music gives us hope that she will find a way.