We say young singers aren’t what they used to be, and then we make huge demands on them. The tenor Matthew Grills was one of five winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2012 — meaning that he made it through several tough rounds and past a number of different judges, including a final round on the Met stage. He was, of course, singing opera arias. On Sunday afternoon, the Washington Performing Arts Society and Vocal Arts D.C. brought him to the Terrace Theater — for a song recital. Song and opera are different animals, and not every opera singer is a successful recitalist, but today’s young singers are expected to produce both on command, at an equally high level.
Early in my career, a Met official took me to task for talking about the Met Auditions winners as if they were supposed to be stage-ready professionals; the competition, I was told, rewards potential rather than polish. Yet a recital like this requires all kinds of polish, and Grills, who certainly has plenty of potential, served it up with aplomb. He’s cultivated all the right ingredients. Good diction in four languages, check. A pleasant demeanor and pleasant voice that can morph from one style to another, check. Earnestness and a palpable desire to do well, check.