“I love new work,” says tenor James Onstad, who presents a recital of art songs with pianist Nathan Salazar on February 24.
Onstad has selected songs by several living composers to perform at the afternoon concert in First Presbyterian Church, including pieces from “Craigslistlieder” by Gabriel Kahane (b.1981).
“Gabriel is creating a new sound world,” explains Onstad, who was introduced to Kahane’s music while he was working on his master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. “He selected some Craigslist ads that are bizarre, eccentric and funny and set them to music.”
Onstad performs “You looked sexy,” “if anyone knows” and “Neurotic and lonely” from Kahane’s 2006 work.
“Late Summer” is a work by Tom Cipullo (b.1956) that’s featured after intermission. “While Gabriel’s music is more in the Broadway spectrum, Tom’s music is strictly from the classical world,” Onstad adds. “It’s challenging writing with lots of different colors in it.”
Also on the program are works by composers including Puccini (1858-1924), Gounoud (1818-1893), Fauré (1845-1924) and Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960).
For Onstad and Salazar, the Serenata of Santa Fe concert is a New Mexico reunion of sorts. While Onstad grew up in Santa Fe singing in several different choruses, Salazar grew up in Los Alamos competing in local and regional piano competitions. “I met Nathan at a competition during high school and greatly respect him,” says Onstad. “We reconnected in 2013 and have been working together ever since.”
Salazar calls Boston home now, and Onstad divides his time between Los Angeles and New York City. He’s a frequent performer with The Industry, an experimental opera company based in L.A.
“While I love opera, if there’s any chance to do an art song program, I take it,” says Onstad. “I love showing audiences the breadth of art songs. It takes me days and days to find just the right music. For me, putting together a program is like a puzzle.”