Today was the opening concert of the season for the free concert series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. As has become standard practice it was a recital by the artists of the COC Studio Ensemble. All the members sang except for Ambur Braid who was ill and Ileana Montalbetti is singing in Elektra in Rome at the moment. I have to say it was great to be listening to live, unamplified singing again after a summer of mostly DVDs. I was most interested to hear newcomer Philippe Sly who I had not heard before. He sang one of the Count’s arias from Figaro. He has a very pleasant voice with plenty of power though I think he lacks a bit of variety and drama. He’ll learn that quickly enough in the Ensemble Studio program. The other newcomer was Mireille Asselin, who I had heard before. She sang a rather weird aria from Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tiresias. No lack of drama or humour in her performance! The other standouts for me were Adrian Kramer and Simone Osborne. Adrian sang “Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen” from Die tote Stadt. His diction and acting are superb and he managed an absolutely gorgeous floated pianissimo on the final “Zurück”. Simone gave us one of Norina’s arias from Don Pasquale. She just gets better. She has quite a powerful, rich voice with really strong, sweet high notes. The progress from even a year ago is obvious. She can act too. There is no question that she is one to watch on the opera scene. Fortunately, that’s exactly what I will be doing in ten days time when I shall see her role debut as Gilda in the COC’s production of Rigoletto. The season is off to a good start.