The tenth season at the Four Seasons Centre opened with the, by now traditional, lunchtime concert by the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Six of the eight singers and one of the two pianists are new recruits which is unusual and more of a chance to level set than see how anyone has developed.
First up was Danika Lorèn with Endless pleasure, endless love. This is one of those deceptively difficult pieces and a very bold choice for the first show of the year (especially with Jane Archibald in the audience!). Top marks for commitment and guts but it could use some refining. Pianist Stéphane Mayer impressed here and in everything else he accompanied. Looks like another addition to ES list of fine accompanist/coaches.
Megan Quick offered Che farò senza Euridice. There’s a fair bit of power in the voice and the colours are pleasingly dark with strength in the lower register. Could be a genuine contralto waiting to grow up here. One to watch.
Lauren Eberwein is more the soprano 2 type of mezzo so Sesto’s Svegliatevi nel core made sense. Good dramatic sensibility and lots of commitment here. Could be interesting. Hyejin Kwon here on piano showing that she too is a fine accompanist.
Aaron Sheppard, tone of the two returning tenors, gave Quanto è bella, quanto è cara. It was quite pretty but rather lacked the ringing Italianate sound that one likes to hear. Maybe I’m being unfair. Andrew Haji is a tough act to follow.
Soprano Samantha Pickett sang O malheureuse Iphigénie. It needs work.
Bruno Roy, now the Ensemble’s only baritone and following a sequence of very good ones, sang Mab, la reine des mensonges. He’s got very good dramatic instincts and the voice is pleasant though not especially distinctive. I still need to see evidence that he has the power for a main stage performer.
Returnee Charles Sy offered Lensky’s aria from Eugene Onegin. He produced darker colours than I’ve heard from him before and some real drama. All in all very promising.
Finally Wunderkind Emily D’Angelo gave a very accomplished, ornamented and well acted account of Contro un cor. Like Simone Osborne at the same age it’s easy to forget just how young she actually is. It’s going to be very interesting to see how she develops.
There’s some expectations management needed here. We’ve gone from a line up in the Ensemble mostly on the verge of full professional careers to mostly kids just out of college. It’s astonishing how much difference a spell with the Ensemble Studio can make so I look forward to seeing how this batch matures.
Photo credits: Chris Hutcheson for the RBA shot and Bronwen Shaarp for the one in the garden behind the COC offices.