Friday night's concert by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and pianist Warren Jones at Carnegie Hall was a delight. It's hard not to love Ms Blythe as a performer. Her ever solid vocal technique, her beautiful sound, and her commanding stage presence make her someone to see and hear live at any opportunity. From the moment Ms Blythe walked on stage, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand and never let them go. She wished everyone could receive such a warm welcome as she'd just received, and continued to charm the audience with introductions to each set. These included readings by Ms Blythe and Mr Jones of song lyrics – they preferred introducing each set to having lyrics in the printed program.

The program was witty and adventurous.The first half contained songs by Francis Poulenc, Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel, the second half cabaret songs by Benjamin Britten and a selection of Noël Coward songs. Poulenc was a 20th-century master of mélodie, or French art song. Ferré, one of Poulenc's natural heirs in the world of song, was a cabaret personality and satirist who set the poetry of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, among others, in simple, straightforward song. Brel's career was relatively brief but meteoric, partly due to exposure on television in the 1950s and 60s. A Jacques Brel song is almost a scena or soliloquy, with an intensely personal viewpoint.

If I described Ms Blythe's three French sets at length, I would risk repeating myself frequently in my praise of her commitment to conveying text vocally and visually, her taste and musicality, her excellent vocalism. One song I particularly liked was Poulenc's “Attributs” (from Poèmes de Ronsard), which was very cabaret in character with its rhythmic piano part. This song gaily ascribes a long list of attributes to mythic characters, including heartache and tears to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. I also loved the sublimely atmospheric feeling and the almost conversational text setting and interpretation of Ferré's “L'invitation au voyage” (text by Baudelaire). I was breathless hearing Ms Blythe's performance of Brel's “Ne me quitte pas” (Don't leave me), with each utterance of the title phrase more desperate, more gutteral, until the final, whispered plea.

Benjamin Britten's cabaret songs were published posthumously, although they were written in the late 1930s, set to poetry by W.H. Auden. In “Calypso” the protagonist is on a train to Grand Central to meet a lover, and the sense of urgency grows almost frantic. “Johnny” is a story of unrequited love: “he frowned like thunder and then he went away”. “Tell Me the Truth About Love” is a coy, witty search for the actual meaning of love. “Funeral Blues” is a setting of the Auden poem by the same name, made popular in the 1990s by its use in the movie Three Weddings and a Funeral. I must praise Ms Blythe's performances of these songs, each song was consistent in its beauty and interpretation, both the cute and funny songs and the dramatic ones. “Calypso” had a child-like impatience to it that was adorable. “Tell Me the Truth About Love” had a more tongue-in-cheek naive quality to it, while “Funeral Blues” was necessarily somber and emotive.

I can not fail to mention that one understood every word Ms Blythe sang in English, which was especially important in the Noël Coward set. These songs were very tasteful icing on an already delicious cake. Ms Blythe gave sensitive performances of “Mad About the Boy” and “The Party's Over Now”, but her most memorable songs from this set were “Nina [from Argentina]” and “[Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage] Mrs Worthington”. “Nina” in particular dazzled with wit and humor, and again, not a word was lost.

It's no surprise Ms Blythe and Mr Jones (whose work I must praise just as enthusiastically as that of Ms Blythe) received a huge ovation at the close of the concert. As an encore, she gave a delightful performance of the old music hall song “Singin' in the Bathtub”, full of humor and charm. (One is convinced Ms Blythe could do a very successful cabaret act. Music hall songs like “Nobody Loves a Fairy When She's 40” and “She Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas” come to mind.) Her second and final encore was Irving Berlin's “Always”. She sang the verse just as tenderly as expected, but by the end, the entire audience was singing the chorus enthusiastically. Most were probably as happy as I was to have been there and to have experienced such a satisfying evening!