"Some cynical wag once noted that if you can fake sincerity, you've got it made. It's presumptuous to assess an artist's sincerity, and in sacred music, it's foolhardy to suggest that the quality depends on the singer's personal faith. To me, sincerity can be judged, somewhat gingerly, by how much a performance sounds invested in the unity of text and music; it's an attribute that rides on top of technical prowess.
Nearly two years ago, when Westra was alto soloist in an Encore Vocal Arts/Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra performance of Handel's "Messiah," I was touched by how well she fused tonal beauty and control with what has to be called sincerity. I had never heard a more moving "He was despised." Monday night I was equally impressed by her aria with chorus, "Domine Deus, Agnus Dei," [from Vivaldi "Gloria"] particularly the firmly communicated feeling of personal appeal in "miserere nobis" ("have mercy upon us"), ending with a feather-soft trill of entreatment. Her solo aria, "Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris," likewise had stability, warmth, genuineness, and a gorgeous alto tone.'
--Jay Harvey, former arts critic for Indianapolis Star, September 2015
....and Part Deux to the previous post....
"It's almost embarrassing to admit that what I looked forward to most about attending this "Messiah" was again hearing mezzo-soprano Mitzi Westra in the oratorio's great alto solos. Exquisitely well-trained and under control, her voice has a kind of unvarnished purity that one hesitates to call "plain," but, if so, it's a plainness in service to the music's emotion, and thus without affectation. I found it unbelievably touching from the recitative "Behold! A virgin shall conceive"--which is the centerpiece of the topological meaning of "Messiah," its assertion of Old Testament prophecy of Christ's coming--through the duet with tenor "O death, where is thy sting?"
Her manner in "O thou that tellest" seemed to me to inspire the orchestra, though I may be reading into it. At every point when she sang, I felt I was getting insight into Handel's heart: In "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened," in "Thou art gone up on high," and particularly in "He was despised." In that aria, with its "B" section detailing the torture of Jesus, Westra seemed to be applying the text's particularities to the appalling practice of torture in our own time upon so many innocent and marginalized people. To blend the intimate with the universal message as well as she did struck me as magical."
--Jay Harvey, December 2016
Santa Fe Desert Chorale performance of Frank Martin's "Songs of Ariel"--Summer 2016
"Several members of the chorus are called on to deliver solo passages in this score. The most impressive of these expanses came in the fourth movement, "You are three men of sin," where mezzo-soprano Mitzi Westra delivered her condemnation of the play's malefactors with gripping intensity."
--James Keller, Santa Fe New Mexican
"The fourth movement, You are three men of sin"...demands a fine alto soloist, and there she was: Mitzi Westra, alto out of Indianapolis, possessor of an orotund vocal sound, was just the right choice for this signal solo."
--Bruce Browne, Oregon Arts Watch
Santa Fe Desert Chorale performance of Bach's B-Minor Mass--Summer 2011
"....I found the concert's high point to be the penultimate number, the alto aria Agnus Dei, sung with simplicity, precise pitch, and immaculate purity by Mitzi Westra, appearing in her 13th summer with the Chorale. One does not expect of a professional chorister the sort of vocal glamour typically displayed by an opera singer, but this interpretation, while not opulent, was moving."
--James Keller, Santa Fe New Mexican
Performance of "Il Tramonto" with Pacifica Quartet, April 25, 2018
"A special treat came with the program's centerpiece, 'Il Tramonto' by Ottorino Respighi.... Mitzi Westra, a mezzo-soprano of exquisite taste, polish and expressive depth who is well-known around town, was featured in the string-quartet-plus-singer Italian setting of Percy Bysshe Shelley's florid lament, 'The Sunset'.... Westra's singing, clearly and plaintively phrased, was neatly complemented by the Pacifica Quartet...and before the work's latter half, a quartet interlude, with a searing cello melody, achieved a concise eloquence equal to the singer's."
--Jay Harvey, April 2018