Northwest NEWS

February 26, 2001

Entertainment

Awilda Verdejo: A diva with heart sings an evening of Amor

by Katherine Bond
   What a privilege to travel five minutes from my house and hear a world-class soprano, who has performed for the likes of Prince Charles!
   On Saturday, February 17, Awilda Verdejo treated us to an evening of love songs from around the world. This was the third event of the Arts Onstage season presented by the Duvall Arts Commission. By the end of the concert, I think the entire audience was in love with Awilda. This is a diva with a heart and her warmth captured us.
   The program included such favorites as "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes" (which I remember listening to as a child) and Schubert's "An die Leier." Verdejo invited the audience into the songs, explaining a little about each one.
   "I've been singing since I was three," says Verdejo. "When I was little, I would prop a book up in the window and use the sill as my piano. My parents didn't want me to sing, though, so I went to college and got a degree in English. I taught English for awhile, then one day I said to my husband, 'I have to sing!' 'So go to Julliard,' he said. So I did."
   She was, in fact, given a full scholarship to Julliard and has since performed such roles as Madama Butterfly at the Kennedy Center and the New York City Opera, Tosca at the Vienna State Opera and Aida in the middle of the Egyptian desert, with the ancient pyramids and Sphinx as a backdrop.
   "The first time I stepped onto a stage, I felt as if I'd come home," she says. "Sometimes I stand on the stage and I think, 'what a miracle this is!'"
   I was filled with that same sense of miracle, listening to Verdejo's spectacular range in Puccini's "Un Bel Di." With "My Man's Gone Now" fromPorgy and Bess, she broke my heart. What a magnificent instrument is the human voice!
   Verdejo was accompanied by her husband, pianist Hartwig Eichberg, who has worked as a conductor and coach at the Koln, Darmstadt, Flensburg and Bremen Opera houses.
   The couple has been married eight years. "The first time we ever looked at each other like this," Verdejo tilts her head and squints, "I thought to myself, 'this better work, because if it doesn't I'm going to lose a darned good accompanist!'"
   One has only to watch one performance to see that this will be a lifelong accompaniment.
   Eichberg also graced us with Chopin's "Nocturne in D Flat Major" and a haunting "Clair de Lune." The most touching moment of the evening was when Verdejo invited a couple from the audience, married 42 years, to come to the stage while she sang "Through the Years." Watching their faces soften as they looked at each other, I was aware, once again, of the power of music to remind us what is most valuable. And, I'll admit, I snuggled a little closer to my own sweetheart of 18 years.
   The next Arts Onstage event will be Spectrum Dance Theatre on Saturday, March 10. Tickets are available at Pumps and Grinds, Gardens & Sunspaces, Duvall Books and Simply Grand.