The GGS Vocal Showcase is an opportunity to take a look at the vocal talent on offer at the Royal Conservatory. It’s a tricky exercise as the students range from the equivalent of first year undergrad to second year masters so one is constantly recalibrating expectations. We got to hear one bass, two baritones, three tenors, one mezzo soprano and fourteen sopranos in a variety of arias, art songs and ensemble numbers.
So, in no particular order my favourites and “ones to watch”. Lets start with the obvious. Gabriel Sanchez-Ortega is a genuine bass. We only heard him in some Haydn trios last night but he seems to have heft and genuine low notes and quite a wide range. He’s also still quite young. Singing with him was soprano Joanna Burt who also gave us an aria from La Cecchina. She has real potential as a dramatic soprano which is the one part of the tweeter market that isn’t flooded. She has some nice dark colours as well as weight. The trios were rounded out by tenor Zachary Rioux. He held his own with two pretty big voices so we’ll see.
Of the rest of the men I’m really intrigued by Patrick Sims, a very tall tenor. Right now his high notes sound a bit thin but if he can sort that out he could be a prospect. Noah Grove, a baritone, shows promise too. He’s only a second year but he managed quite an accomplished Bei Männern. Kjel Erickson, also a baritone, is perhaps closer to the finished product judging by a suitably gutsy Leoncavallo number. He displayed vocal acting skills and a suitably Italianate sound.
The one mezzo on show, Lillian Brooks, was one of the highlights of the evening. She’s got a genuine mezzo voice and real stage presence. In fact she was the one singer of the night who looked like she could own a stage. She gave us a very polished Cruda sorte! and paired nicely with soprano Kendra Dyck in a duet from La Cecchina. Ms Dyck also sang an aria from Il Re Pastore that suggested that if she can refine her coloratura she could be quite effective in that niche.
Among the rest of the many sopranos there were a few standouts. Lynn Isnar’s Je veux vivre was suitably dramatic with a nice combination of power and accuracy. I’ve had my eye (or ear) on Jonelle Sills for a while now. She didn’t disappoint with Depuis le jour. It’s not an obvious choice for a young singer but she’s got the power and the richness of tone to pull it off. I think she has the potential to be anything from a smokey Zwischenfach in the lyrico-spinto space to full on dramatic. We’ll see.
I’ll also be interested to see two youngsters again. Katelyn Bird and Militza Bolijevic sang a rather pleasing Aphrodite from Elizabeth Raum’s Sirens cycle. It’s early days for them but worth keeping an eye on.
Piano accompaniment was from the ever reliable trio of Rachel Andrist, Jennifer Tung and Peter Tiefenbach.