Quilico Awards 2013

Last night, for the second time (the first was in 2011) the singers of the COC Ensemble Studio competed for the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards; a prize competition created by Christina in memory of her husband, baritone Louis.  It was the usual competition format; the singers offer three arias, they sing one and then the judges choose which of the remaining two they will sing.  It being the Ensemble Studio on show the standard was extremely high.  Nine singers and eighteen arias is too much to report in detail so I’ll concentrate on the winners.


Alan Walker of the Ontario Arts Foundation, Christina Quilico and the Ensemble Studio

In third place was Ambur Braid.  She gave us a very decent version of “Regarde-les, ces yeux” from Massenet’s (as she put it) “ever popular” Esclarmonde and then followed it up with a “Sempre libera” for which my quick note was “wow!”.  It was just what one might expect from Ambur; drama, passion and interpolated high notes.  This lady lives above the stave!  She’s singing Violetta for Arizona Opera next March and I would love to see it.  Expect a unique take on the role!


Alan Walker, Christina Quilico and the winners

Second place went to Claire de Sévigné who gave an appropriately pretty reading of “Ah! Douce enfant” from Massenet’s Cendrillon (has Gianmarco Segato been bribing people to do Massenet?) and an elegantly ornamented “Non disperare” from Giulio Cesare.  It was a thoroughly polished lyric soprano performance of the kind that tends to win competitions.

Then we got the first real surprise of the night.  There were two first place winners!  In this case Neil Craighead and Rihab Chaieb.  Rihab gave us “Wie du warst” from Rosenkavalier and a really lovely performance of the haunting “Must the winter come so soon” from Barber’s Vanessa.  I’ve been listening to Rihab fairly regularly for about three years now and she really is beginning to blossom.  The genuine dark mezzo tone colour has always been there and now it’s married to real power.


Rihab Chaieb

Neil, too, has developed a lot since I first heard him.  The voice is rock solid and he’s gained a lot of confidence and become a very polished actor/singer.  Last night he sang “O tu, Palermo” from I vespri siciliani, which really suited his voice, and “Aprite un po’ quegli occhi”.  I’m less sure about Neil and Mozart.  It’s such a crowded field and, while he’s powerful and technically sound, he doesn’t have the prettiest voice.  I suspect he’ll really come into his own as he grows into heavier repertoire.  He’d make a very imposing Wotan!


Neil Craighead

Judging these competitions must be really tough.  I was sitting with a couple of Toronto’s better known opera writers and, when we compared notes, we all had different names.  The only one we agreed on was Ambur I think.  My 1-2-3 were all in the prizes though!

Rihab, Neil and Ambur will be leaving the Ensemble Studio at the end of this season but I’m sure we’ll see more of them in Toronto and elsewhere.  I certainly hope so.  It was a most enjoyable couple of hours thanks to all the singers involved, accompanists Jenna Douglas and Timothy Cheung and, of course, Ms. Quilico for creating the opportunity.

Photo credits: Chris Hutcheson

7 thoughts on “Quilico Awards 2013

  1. HA! I had a feeling there’d be some Massenet crack! It’s interesting that these two singers chose relatively obscure Massenet arias at that. Whatever one’s opinions are on this composer, I think singers can’t help but be drawn to his melodies – he really knew how to compose for the voice. It was a great evening of singing – a real treat and as you say, with so many singing and performing at such a high level, very difficult to choose. Part of the problem also must be…so many sopranos, all a bit different, but several very much in the “lyric” vein singing somewhat similar rep (how to choose between Sevigne’s Cleopatra and Asselin’s Semele for example?). They were all great but for me Ambur stood out for the risks she took with dynamics, crazy high notes and overall expression. Best I’ve heard Neil sing for sure, and the Verdi aria really suits his (large!) tone. Rihab’s voice continues to grow in size, beauty and she’s a very effective actress.

    • Oddly enough I’m in the middle of watching a recording of Cendrillon and I’m quite enjoying it. I totally agree about last night’s performance being Neil’s best. I said as much to him afterwards. Ambur just gets more amazing. Curious that the Met preferred Mireille as cover for Adele.

  2. I am so glad there is this event honoring Luis Quilco. I first started going to the opera in the early 70’s and heard him many times at the NYCO (where he was the leading baritone) and later at the other house in NYC. I was always thought he was a greatly under appreicated singer. He would have been a much bigger star today. I have never gotten out of my head the suoni la tromba at NYCO he did with a young bass named Samuel Ramey.

    • It really is wonderful. Three of the winners on Monday I count as friends and I hope we both have the chance to see their careers blossom. What greater tribute to an artist can there be than to see their legacy help fuel the next generation of artists?

  3. Pingback: 2013 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards | Christina Petrowska Quilico . Pianist

  4. Pingback: Wonderful operaramblings blog post on the 2013 Quilico Awards | Christina Petrowska Quilico . Pianist

  5. Pingback: The 2015 Quilico Awards | Schmopera

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