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A slimmer Voigt still has a big voice

LENOX -- Deborah Voigt, dressed in form-fitting glittery black, swept onstage at Tanglewood to a roar of welcome at her first New England recital Tuesday night. She looked like the Merry Widow, or Shelley Winters back in her glamour-puss prime. It took a while for the familiar voice to catch up to the effect of her spectacular new slimmed-down look.

In a group of Schubert songs, Voigt was often merely loud and stiff. She began to open up in some Richard Strauss songs, especially the ecsatic ''Befreit." By the time she arrived at Tchaikovsky, she was really pouring it on, communicating intense emotion through shimmering, refulgent tones. Her pianist, Brian Zeger, played with knowledge and taste, but stayed at background level. In the songs in English after intermission, however, Zeger proved a match for the diva in volume and personality.

Voigt was superb in a group of Charles Ives songs, singing ''Children's Hour" with tender intimacy and handling the tongue-twisting demands of ''The Circus Band" with aplomb. It was probably a mistake to follow these songs, among America's greatest, with a group by contemporary American composer Ben Moore, who writes in the sugary parlor-ballad style of a century ago, the very thing Ives revolted against.

It was a relief to arrive at William Bolcom: Voigt offered two of his cabaret tunes, including ''George," about a drag queen who chose to sing ''Madama Butterfly" to the wrong sailor. She closed the official program with two Sondheim tunes. ''Losing My Mind" took on operatic dimensions; Voigt's voice is big enough for the emotions, which can't be said for every Broadway stylist who attempts it. ''I Never Do Anything Twice" was a virtuoso exercise in lewd double entendre.

Voigt obliged with two encores, another resplendent Strauss song and an additional and much better Moore song, ''Wagner Roles." There are hilarious references to ''Tristan und Isolde," to Bruennhilde leaping from rock to slippery rock, and even to the little black dress Voigt was once unable to fit into, famously losing a role at Covent Garden. Voigt has no problem making fun of her image, because she herself is the real deal.

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