Last night the final eight aria contestants performed. Canadian mezzo Marie-Andrée Mathieu was up first. Meyerbeer’s Nobles seigneurs, salut! showed genuine mezzo colours, good control and some dramatic flair. Parto! Parto! was pleasant but not as dramatic as one might expect. Certainly the range of emotion on display was markedly less than Emily D’Angelo the day before. Amour, viens rendre mon âme from Gluck’s Orphée showed she could handle long runs. So it was a solid performance but maybe not at the level needed against this field.
There’s been a fair amount of buzz about what competitions are for going on both on-line and here in Montreal. Lydia at Definitely the Opera raised the question in comments and it came up in conversation at the Salle Bourgie a couple of times last night. I suppose the basic question is are competitions a way for younger, less well known, singers to get notice, attract an agent etc or are they a way for more established young singers to cement their reputation (and maybe make some money)? It’s a reasonable thing to ask because it’s asking a lot to expect a 25 year old in a young artists program to compete with a thirty something who has sung significant roles on major stages.
Both types of singer are evident in Montreal this week. The singers range in age from 24 to 35 with a median age of 29.5. Experience ranges from “left the conservatory last year” to “has sung at the Met”. It really stands out in the hall too. There’s a world of difference between an established and polished performer like John Brancy or Rihab Chaieb and someone new to the limelight like Olga Rudyk. (The frighteningly mature and confident Emily D’Angelo being the exception that proves the rule!).
It’s also been suggested that there is almost becoming something of a competition “circuit”. Many of the CMIM competitors (and judges) also featured at the last Wigmore Hall competition. It’s an interesting thought, especially for art song. Maybe a competition format would drum up more interest than conventional recitals (though rules severely restricting the use of certain songs would surely be necessary).
So I guess I wasn’t that impressed with the first session in the aria competition; too much loud, technically correct, but dull singing. Things were much better in the evening though. First up was Russian mezzo Alexandra Yangel. She was very personable and fun to watch but a bit wayward vocally. Nobles seigneurs, Salut! from Les Huguenots was dramatic and lyrical in places but her upper register gets quite squally. This was even more noticeable in the aria from La Cenerentola that followed. I liked the passion and the vocal acting ability in her Smanie, implacabili though.
And so to the aria competition. Twenty four singers in three sessions are competing for twelve places in the semifinals. It’s piano for the first round but after that it’s the Maison Symphonique and the OSM. As with the art song competition I’ve tried to keep my session reports free of hindsight. This one was written between the afternoon and evening sessions last night. It will be followed by a report on yesterday evening and tomorrow should see the post on the third session and the judges decisions.
First up in afternoon was Canadian mezzo Carolyn Sproule. She kicked off with Strauss’ Wie du warst!, followed it up with Printemps qui commence from Samson et Delila and finished up with Ah! Quando all’ara scorgemi from Maria Stuarda. It was all pretty good. She’s a genuine mezzo with power enough and she got more dramatic as the set went on. I thought it was maybe a little under-characterised but compared to much of what came later it was positively thespian.
The judges make their decisions by voting without discussion so there is no rationale given for the results. Anyway while they were doing that I tried to guess what might result. I divided the field into three lists; Probables, Maybes and Probably Not. Here’s my list:
Probables: Brancy, Chaieb, Krisna, Sharvit, Taffot and You.
Maybes: Neher, Osowski, Park, Summerfield.
Probably Nots: Fanyo, Fischer, Punkeri, Simard-Galdès, Tayloe.
So back to the Salle Bourgie for the second and final batch of art song contestants. First up was mezzo Hagar Sharvit. I liked her. It’s a genuine mezzo voice and if her Fauré and Schubert offerings were a bit “flow of beautiful tone” they displayed plenty of power and a nice ability to spin a line. Her version of Britten’s O Waly, Waly was rather good ; more dramatic and with perfect diction. A strong start.
Yesterday afternoon and evening we heard all sixteen contestants in the preliminary round of the art song competition and the eight semifinalists were announced. To try and keep things interesting I’m going to do three posts; one on the afternoon, one on the evening and one on the judging and other general observations. The first was written between the afternoon and evening sessions yesterday and I haven’t updated it with later information. The second will be based on my notes and I’ll try to ignore who the fact that at time of writing I know the results. So here’s the first post about yesterday afternoon…