The Christina and Louis Quilico Awards are a singing competition for members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. This year’s edition took place early yesterday evening in the RBA. Only five members of the Ensemble Studio were competing. Megan Quick and Sam Pickett were not for reasons that I don’t think were announced and Aaron Sheppard was sick. So it was a pretty brief affair. The format as usual was that each contestant offered three arias and got to sing the one of their choice with the judges choosing which of the other two they should sing.
First up was mezzo Emily d’Angelo. She was probably the bookies’ favourite going in and she didn’t disappoint. Her first aria Non piú mesta from La Cenerentola was maybe not the best technical singing I’ve ever heard from her but it was powerful and dramatic with spectacular coloratura. Only a bit of squalliness in the upper register at the beginning detracted. Coeur sans amour from the Massenet Cendrillon was even better. This was very beautiful, well characterised, dramatic and with excellent breath control and power to burn. So, if not at the very top of her game, this was very impressive.
Baritone Bruno Roy is fated to sing after D’Angelo at the moment it seems. He started with a rather good version of Pelléas’ tower aria from Pelléas et Mélisande. It suited his vocal acting talents and was probably the best thing I’ve heard him do. Harlekin’s aria from Ariadne auf Naxos though was a bit dry and without the necessary “bounce”.
Tenor Charles Sy gets massive bonus points in my book for starting off with English Handel. In this case I must with speed amuse her from Semele. This was accurate with excellent breath control and diction, some drama and proper ornaments in the da capo repeat. These English airs are deceptively tricky and this was good stuff. Ah! Lève toi, soleil! from Roméo et Juliette was also very pleasing with some ringing high notes and an easy powerful delivery. Proper tenor singing!
Mezzo Lauren Eberwein gave us Wie du warst from Der Rosenkavalier and Sgombra é la sacra selva from Norma. Both were sung with accuracy and good characterisation but I found the voice a bit monochromatic. If it develops some more interesting colours, as it may, she could be one to watch.
Last up was soprano Danika Lorèn. Her first number was Il primo ardor from Handel’s Ariodante. I thought this was bold indeed as the last time I heard her sing Handel it hadn’t been competition ready! This was very good though with power and accuracy and excellent control of the coloratura and upper register generally. Caro nome from Rigoletto was perhaps even better. There are lovely colours in the voice and she has an easiness in her upper register that is very impressive. Someone once said that Ambur Braid had never met a high note she didn’t like. Danika seems rather in that mould but with a darker, more dramatic voice.
So when Alexander Neef, Adrianne Pieczonka and Sandra Horst retired to confabulate I wasn’t in much doubt who the three prize winners would be but the order was anyone’s guess. It turned out to be Charles in third with Emily and Danika in joint first. It could easily have been any perm of the three.
Props to the ever reliable Stéphane Mayer and Hyejin Kwon who were on piano duty and were, as ever, very good indeed.
Photo credits: Michael Hutcheson