Review in NY Times from Tanglewood performance August 16, 2017
"But Ms. Sirota’s program, on Sunday, was the most emotionally compelling of the three. It began with David Lang’s stunningly simple and lovely “just” (2014), a setting drawn from the Song of Songs, in a beautiful performance by three singers, Mary Bonhag, Fotina Naumenko and Jazimina MacNeil.." James R. Ostereich
Premiere: Songs of a Mountain Recluse (Evan Premo) April 22, 2017 "This sensually beautiful cycle benefited from a beautifully lyrical and expressive performance by soprano Mary Bonhag, Premo’s wife, sensitively complemented by pianist Jeffrey Chappell, flutist Karen Kevra and Premo on bass." Jim Lowe, Times-Argus (VT)
Gorecki Symphony no. 2 Feb. 14, 2017 "Soprano Mary Bonhag, once a student of Upshaw’s, gave depth to the heart-wrenching words of a young woman, found on the wall of a Gestapo cell after World War II. In a riveting performance, Bonhag delivered the subtle drama of the simple vocal line with a quiet expressiveness that plumbed the words’ depth gorgeously." Jim Lowe, Times-Argus (VT)
Pierrot Lunaire Oct. 30, 2016 "Arnold Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire” has been challenging and rewarding audiences and performers alike since its premiere in 1912.Friday’s performance by soprano Mary Bonhag and Scrag Mountain Music at Montpelier’s Unitarian Church delivered its complex tonal beauty and reveled in the melodrama’s dark witty theatricality.
Beautifully paving the way to “Pierrot Lunaire,” which comprised the program’s second half, was salty and charming 20th century cabaret music by Schoenberg, William Bolcom and Paul Schoenfield. (The program was repeated Saturday at First Light Studios in Randolph, and will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today (Oct. 30) at the Warren United Church.)
Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire” is a brilliant 30-plus-minite tapestry of sounds for voice, flute, clarinet, cello and piano. Listening closely reveals its edgy early 20th century atonality (before Schoenberg adopted his 12-tone system). But stepping back a bit at Friday’sperformance opened up a world of brilliant colors and striking wit and drama.
Soprano Mary Bonhag, co-artistic director of Scrag Mountain with her husband, bassist Evan Premo, led the performance of Schoenberg’s setting of German translations of terse, witty and dramatic poems by the Belgian Albert Giraud. During the performance, the English translation was projected on a screen above the performers — an absolutely marvelous idea.
The vocal part calls for Sprechstimme, a unique mix of speaking and singing, and Bonhag, made up as Pierrot, employed a broad palette of expressions as she beautifully underscored the wit, drama and pathos appropriate to the storytelling. Many times the vocal part effectively joined the tapestry of the instruments.
The instrumental writing was not only delightful, it was decidedly virtuosic. But members of the New York City-based chamber collective Decoda — pianist DavidKaplan, flutist Catherine Gregory, clarinetist Paul Won Jin Cho, violinist/violist Anna Elashvili, and cellist Hamilton Berry — not only delivered the details, they did it with passion. Scrag Mountain’s “Pierrot Lunaire” was a delightful dramatic musical experience — and about as good a performance as you can hear of this anywhere.
During the first half, Bonhag sang witty cabaret songs with Kaplan of Schoenberg and Bolcom (b. 1938). The two Schoenberg songs, “Gigerlette” and “Der genügsame Liebhaner (My Lady Friend Has a Black Cat),” employ vocal lines that are more 19th century operatic than atonal Schoenberg — and Bonhag has the goods.
Bolcom, who has appeared at Vermont’s Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival and Stowe Performing Arts Festival, has made a specialty of sophisticated cabaret songs. Bonhag and Kaplan had great fun with his well-known “Black Max,” reveling in its drama and wit. They also gleefully delivered “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise.”
The songs were sandwiched and broken up by the three movements of Schoenfield’s light-hearted “Café Music” for piano trio. Other than the final Presto, which could have used another rehearsal, Kaplan, Elashvili and Berry delivered this sophisticated mix of jazz, ragtime, Gypsy and Broadway with flair.
Once again, Scrag Mountain Music introduces its audience to the unexpected — and makes it a joy." Jim Lowe, Times-Argus (VT)
Eve in The Diaries of Adam and Eve (Evan Premo) Aug. 9, 2016 "Bonhag is a soprano with a warm but brilliant voice, and this lyrical music suits her best. [Matthew] Morris too has a rich, warm voice, though much of his role was spoken. The singing, seemingly written for their voices, was warm and expressive.
Both Bonhag and Morris proved to be delightful comic actors as well, never overdoing, the humor wry and contagious. And they could be deeply touching." Jim Lowe Times Argus (VT)
Shawn Jaeger's "In Old Virginny," Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, and Antonio Arroyo's "Tres Canciones Mexicanes" July 14, 2015 "Sticking most firmly in memory from the July 10 concert was American composer Shawn Jaeger's In Old Virginny (2007), for soprano and double-bass. The text, from the alternating viewpoints of two former lovers, comes from an anthology of Appalachian folk songs, but Jaeger’s music is new. While the soprano line is a cousin to the Appalachian folk tradition (down to the pitch inflections and slightly nasal projection), the double-bass flies off into spiky modernism or carries the song into harmonic territories distant from the implied harmony of the melody. The music admirably suits the disturbed mood of the text. Jaeger composed the work for the extraordinary soprano Mary Bonhag and her husband, the electrifying double-bassist Evan Premo, who reprised it here in an engrossing performance. Bonhag’s bright, pure, absurdly accurate instrument also was heard to fine effect in Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" the soprano’s timbre eerily matching that of clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg; and in a remarkable set of three popular songs by the Mexican singer-composer (and jeweler) Antonio Salazar Arroyo, arranged for soprano, clarinet, and piano (Lo-An Lin) by Antonio Taño. The second of these, a jazzy ballad called “Inspiración,” particularly indicated a composer of substance." Mike Greenburg (Classical Voice America) http://classicalvoiceamerica.org/2015/07/14/cactus-pear-fest-popular-balm-in-san-antonio-heat/
"The star for the rest of the concert was soprano Mary Bonhag, who displayed marvelous versatility in three different styles of vocal music. Bonhag started with Schubert's Viennese-flavored art song, "The Shepherd on the Rock," that summoned images of natural beauty and emotions of distant love delivered beautifully from her supple, expressive voice. Bonhag then shifted to Tres Canciones Mexicanas, or Three Mexican Songs, by Antonio Salazar Arroyo. Bonhag requested the audience to shift their frame of minds from Vienna salons to a jazz hall for the Arroyo. The songs, all lovely, were entertaining in a manner that might have heard in Ricky Ricardo-style New York dinner clubs in the 1950s. For the Schubert and Arroyo works, Bonhag was accompanied by Lin and the always-eloquent clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg of the San Antonio Symphony. Bonhag then moved to a different key altogether with the more modern "In Old Virginny" by Shawn Jaeger. The Kentucky native composer wrote the piece in 2007 for Bonhag and her husband, bass player Evan Premo, who accompanied his wife Friday night. Bonhag's high-note voice contrasted with Premo's low-note bass throughout the work. Sometimes their phrasing went separate directions, only occasionally moving toward a duet. The tonal disparity symbolized male-female perspectives." David Hendricks San Antonio Express-News
Messiah Dec. 6, 2015 "Soprano Mary Bonhag led the quartet of fine soloists, the best in recent memory. Bonhag is ideal for this music, delivering its brilliance and lyricism with deftness and a voice that combines silkiness and personal warmth. Her final “How beautiful are the feet of them” was as gorgeous as it was heart-wrenching." Jim Lowe Times Argus (VT)
listed among the Best of 2012: Classical Music by the San Antonio Express-News for her staged version of Bach’s Coffee Cantata, set in modern times.
Le Caffé by Nicolas Bernier July 2012: “pure as a bell” San Antonio Express-News
Singing Bolcom Cabaret Songs and Premo Seasonal Song Cycle Feb. 27, 2011: “Bonhag and Austin-Reynolds delivered [Bolcom’s cabaret songs] with a sense of fun as well as a deep musicality. Bonhag is a delightfully lyrical and accurate soprano who delivers a simple expressive line. This proved particularly effective in her husband Premo’s “Seasonal Song Cycle” for soprano and double bass. Spring’s “In Just” had an Appalachian flair; “Summer Morning” was folky; Autumn’s “It Would Melt in My Hand” was a tender lament; and Winter’s “Velvet Shoes” was folky. All used contemporary harmonic and rhythmic language in a way that, rather than being disruptive, added spice and color to traditional styles.” Jim Lowe, Times Argus (VT)
David T. Little’s Dog Days in Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall NYC May 11, 2010: “Mary Bonhag and Megan Taylor, sopranos; Tania Rodriguez, mezzo-soprano; Patrick Cook and Sung Eun Lee, tenors — gave wrenching portrayals of a couple and their three children.” -- Allan Kozin (NY Times) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/arts/music/12dawn.html “Mary Bonhag's engagingly enthusiastic introduction of her selection, Lamento d'Arianna, in her depiction of Ariadne in Monteverdi’s Arianna coupled with her crystal clear soprano provided a perfect pairing of voice, drama, and musical artistry in perhaps the most striking and passionate of all of the performances of the afternoon.”—Ellen Nordstrom Baer, Performing Arts of New Hampshire
Recordings: About Albany Records release: Gold are my Flowers/A Civil War Cycle (music by C. Curtis-Smith): “Bonhag is as effective in the near-spoken passages as she is in the more lyrical ones.
"An intriguing and rewarding release.” (Fanfare)
“Potent poetry, powerful music, committed performances.” (American Record Guide)