Every year the COC Ensemble Studio engages in an exchange programme with the Atelier Lyrique of L’Opéra de Montréal. Each year that results in a joint lunchtime recital in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. It seems to be a popular gig. The doors were closed today at 11.40 for the noon performance (it’s first come, first served). Thankfully, writing this stuff gets me a reserved seat or I would have missed out. The show is always worth seeing because it’s not at all unusual for the best singers from the Montreal programme to move onto the Ensemble Studio.
It was a very interesting session. When I first attended one of these two or three years ago I thought the Montreal singers were undercooked and not nearly as polished as the locals. That wasn’t true last year and it wasn’t true this year. The Montreal representatives acquitted themselves nobly. It made for a great concert.
The first singer we heard was Jean-Michel Richer singing Questa o quella from Rigoletto. he told us that a year ago he was a baritone! One woud never have guessed because here and later he revealed a genuine tenor voice with solid high notes and a very decent sense of style. He can act too as he showed later while singing one of the duets from La Bohème with Cameron McPhail.
Next up was the very young and cute coloratura soprano Frédérique Drolet. She sang an aria from Linda de Chamounix. She threw herself into it with pretty decent control of the tricky coloratura and a perky sort of stage presence. We got something similar later in the insane Je suis Titania from Thomas’ Mignon. She also sang a very pleasing Flower Duet from Lakmé with Rihab Chaieb. There’s lots of potential there. She’s not quite the finished article but cute, perky young sopranos get cut a bit of slack and if the voice develops a bit more depth she could be very interesting.
The final Montreal singer was soprano Karine Boucher. She has a beautiful and quite mature voice heard to best advantage in the Marietta’s Lied from Die Tote Stadt. She also sang a very decent Porgi amor and a well acted version of Sull’aria opposite Sasha Djihanian.
The Ensemble Studio contingent put in predictably solid work. Rihab Chaieb gave us a well characterised Voi che sapete, Cameron McPhail managed a very exasperated sounding Donne mie, la fate a tanti and Sasha sang Deh vieni.
The finale was Sasha and Jean-Michel singing a multilingual Lippen Schweigen with half the audience humming along. It was a lovely romantic ending to a very enjoyable Valentine’s Day concert.
Piano accompaniment was provided by the COC’s Timothy Cheung and Montreal’s Jennifer Szeto.