Gracious lady that she is, Elly Ameling begged the audience’s indulgence at Ambassador Auditorium for veering off the lied path and singing two arias (one by Gluck, the other by Mozart), “because paintings on their themes hang in the museum (the Norton Simon) across the street and I could not resist.”

But what the beloved Dutch soprano effectively did Tuesday with this little speech was apologize for the obvious difficulty “Ch’io mi scordi di te” caused her. And she was right: after arriving back on terra firma with songs (as opposed to arias), Ameling stood sovereign.

She is a paragon of the lied. That means knowing how to join music and text, sound and meaning, into a poetic whole. And in the Schubert offerings (together with music by Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss) she gave an object lesson in the art of the song.

All six of these Schubert lieder focus on gladness, which Ameling approaches by way of placing her voice forward in a smiling way. This is the best of the singer; it captures her warmth through pure, gleaming tone and idiomatically rounded phrases and melting legato. There are no stresses; nothing to test vocal elasticity or dynamic capacity or color range. What emerges is something close to heavenly.


If one had a quibble it would involve the small-scaled expressive spectrum she surveyed--albeit deliberately--in her Schubert group.

But she did make an attempt to vary the profile with five “Mignon” songs by Wolf. These, which dwell in Goethe’s realm of human predicament, she penetrated with a quivering sadness. While they are a trifle heavy to be ideal for the Ameling voice--it revealed a certain dryness under pressure--her dramatic intensity compensated.

The Strauss group became a middle ground between Schubert and Wolf. “Muttertaendelei” found Ameling wrapping the upward spiraling line with light, gleeful sensuality. Her delivery of “Traum durch die Daemmerung,” even though she lacked the vocal amplitude for a needed crescendo, was tender.

Had Rudolf Jansen not insisted on keeping so subdued a profile, his thoughtful accompaniments might have been more complementary.


Ameling ended the evening with three encores: Granados’ “El majo discreto,” Tosti’s “Serenata” and Mozart’s “Un moto di gioja.”