NATHAN GUNN – A Hit at the Herbst

Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin is fresh and fair and ready to go

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Nathan Gunn delivered a solid and artistically satisfying rendition of Franz Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin Tuesday evening at the Herbst Theatre. Accompanying him was his wife, Julie Gunn. Together they produce a soundscape for the “Beautiful Maid of the Mill” that is consistently pleasing and dramatically bouyant. It takes twenty songs – the majority of which have repetitive verses – to complete this tale of a young man whose adventure with a running brook leads him to inconsolable anguish over a Miller’s daughter and, finally, to drowning in the soothing embrace of the water itself. In fact, the last song is sung by the brook. Even in Schubert’s time – within the lofty music parlors of the late 1820s, where a pleasing young singer and his accompanist performed the 70-minute piece non-stop – such fantasies were a bit of a stretch. But the cycle has withstood the test of time and remains the perfectly potent and portable two-person-show. Die Schöne Müllerin is at its best when the musical relationship between the singer and the pianist is as close as the bond between the guileless Hero and – what turns out to be – the possessive Brook. Nathan Gunn’s lyric baritone and easy-going manner make him the ideal choice for Schubert’s innocent and romantic martyr. At the piano – and as the “voice” of the brook – Julie Gunn’s technical precision and sensitivity to the text completely supports the wide range of psychological underpinnings within the dramatic flow.

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NATHAN GUNN, Baritone

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NATHAN GUNN as “The Barber of Seville”. Photo, Terrence McCarthy

San Francisco audiences know Nathan Gunn from his four seasons with SF Opera, beginning in 2003 when he appeared as “Figaro” in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. He repeated the role in 2006 and made an even more spectacular impression, captivating the viewers with his deft comic timing, natural bravado, and vocal agility. In the 2004/05 season he displayed his physical prowess and musical versatility in the title role of Billy Budd and as “Guglielmo” in Mozart’s Così Fan Tuttte. With Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin, Nathan Gunn proves himself the ideal recitalist. Along with Julie Gunn’s excellent accompaniment, Nathan’s superb musicianship in tandem with his well-balanced vocal line and tidy decorum kept the succession of 20 songs vibrant and appealing. Mr. Gunn is also very easy on the eyes. The time floated by all too quickly. The central character is challenged by a thirst for adventure, wistful romantic longings, the pangs of unrequited love, jealousy and rage, dark depression, and a final surrender to the calming oblivion of the sea. Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin is a popular recital choice for both tenors and baritones. Fans of the opus will appreciate Nathan Gunn’s faithfulness to the composer’s intentions and note the occasional emphases and tempo fluctuations which distinguish his interpretation. Presented by San Francisco Performances, Nathan’s increasingly loyal following were simply content to have him back in The City and – like the knowing and jealous Brook – alone and apart.

Watch the Grammy Awards on CBS, Sunday, January 31st.
Nominated for “Best Engineered Album, Classical”: Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. Neil Hutchinson and Jonathan Stokes, engineers. The cast features Nathan Gunn (as “Billy Budd”), Daniel Harding, Ian Bostridge, Gidon Saks, Neal Davies, Jonathan Lemalu, Matthew Rose. Daniel Harding conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

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Coming this Saturday to The Herbst
SAN FRANCISCO PERFORMANCES presents The Alexander String Quartet, with lecturer Robert Greenberg. Additional Saturday performances on 1/30, 2/20, 3/27.

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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