Just Before Sunrise

Audio CD / 2007

American baritone Nathan Gunn has been earning kudos in the world of opera for his handsome voice and appealing looks in operas by Britten and Mozart and as Clyde Griffiths in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy. For his solo debut album, however, he has turned his attention to a program of introspective contemporary songs by the likes of Sting, Tom Waits, Gene Scheer (better known as a librettist), Billy Joel, and others. He’s assisted by Kristin Chenoweth in a song by John Bucchino and backed by prodigy jazz pianist Eldar on some cuts. The intimate arrangements throughout are by David Cullen. The songs are lovely: romantic, nostalgic, and gentle (Jimmy van Heusen’s “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” a veritable Norman Rockwell painting in song, is included). Fans of easy listening will appreciate Gunn’s nonchalant, pitch-perfect, thoroughly non-operatic renditions of them all. There is nothing classical about this release, however, and Gunn’s true gifts are better heard in opera. –Robert Levine