Last year at age 37, roughly a decade after her debut with a regional company in France, Atlanta-born mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore finally took her first bows at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. On Friday, she’ll make her first local appearance, in a solo recital at the University of Chicago–a belated homecoming for this longtime Barrington resident. (She’ll be back next spring for a gig with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.) Larmore spent the first part of her career compiling an impressive resumé studded with plum roles in productions at some of Europe’s renowned opera houses and concert halls. Most reviews point to her charming stage presence and the ease with which she handles her supple, rather lightweight voice–observations largely confirmed by a spate of recent CDs. Lamore’s choice of parts so far–specializing in Handel, Mozart, and Rossini–reveals an affinity with the crowd-pleasing American diva Marilyn Horne, though her approach is not nearly as mannered nor her voice as spectacularly throaty. A better model for Larmore would be Janet Baker, a quiet, dignified English singer noted for her intelligence and career longevity. On her CDs, Larmore is very much in the Baker mold, coming across with more sincerity than fervor, more sweet tenderness than sensual ripeness. Her Italian and German diction is nearly impeccable, marred only occasionally by hints of an American accent. This recital program ranges chronologically from Purcell (“Dido’s Lament”) to the present, and requires familiarity with four languages: in addition to Handel (a trouser-role aria from Giulio Cesare, the opera that established her reputation in Europe), Mozart (from The Marriage of Figaro), and Rossini (the seldom-heard songbook The Venetian Regatta) are art songs by Gounod, Faure, and four 20th-century Spanish composers. Also featured–a must for American classical singers these days–are a few American folk ditties arranged by the likes of Aaron Copland. With the right breaks, Larmore may yet emerge as a genuine phenom, the mezzo counterpart to Cecilia Bartoli. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-8068.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Henry Fair.