Baritone Timothy Mix gave a debut recital Friday night at the Arthur Zankel Music Center to a small but enthusiastic crowd who had braved slippery roads to cheer him on. Despite the concert being done on short notice to replace an ailing Anthony Dean Griffey, Mix put together an assortment of opera arias, show tunes and a folk song that he sang with superb style.
Now in his early 30s, Mix has amassed stellar credentials and this season will sing with companies in San Francisco and Washington, among others. But he is also a student of opera baritones. This recital was based on those baritones who have inspired him over the years since his days at Peabody Conservatory, where he said he spent countless hours listening to recordings. Among the many baritones he listed prior to singing an aria that they were famous for were Thomas Allen, John Charles Thomas, Lawrence Tibbett, George London and Enzio Pinza.
Mix impressed with his big, rich voice that sounded like an orchestral trombone section. There’s a heroic quality to his voice with its strength and intensity, to which he adds an even timbre throughout, fluid phrases, effortless delivery and superb diction. All of these supported each aria’s character. One could almost hear the bravos from an audience, were he singing these arias at the opera house.
His very skilled accompanist, Christopher Cano, who frequently works with singers, was accurate, usually kept the balances, used a light pedal and was very supportive.
They began with Handel’s “Arm, Arm Ye Brave” from “Judas Maccabaeus,” which showed off his silken phrasing, resolute mien and strong inflections.
He did two Verdi arias: one from “Don Carlos,” which was focused, intense and expressive; and an aria from “Falstaff” that was dramatic and powerful.
There were two Mozart arias: one from “Le Nozze di Figaro,” in which Cano was especially terrific, and one from “Don Giovanni,” in which Mix caressed the lyrics with a gentler quality and lightened his usual forceful delivery.
In the Puccini aria from “Il Tabarro,” Mix snarled, raged and was fiercely thrilling.
But he showed a marvelous sensitivity and unexpected flair in the two more popular tunes: Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight” and Daniel Kelley’s “Home on the Range.” His superbly regulated voice, gentle way with the lyrics, natural stretch to the phrases and open, friendly manner created a mood that was spellbinding. The Kern was wonderfully romantic, and Kelley’s cowboy lament was longing and lovely.
As an encore, he sang “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific,” which was almost a lullaby of exotic appeal.