Musica e parole

Yesterday’s lunchtime recital at Walter Hall was a collaboration between the Faculty of Music and the Department of Italian studies and explored the links between the source texts for various Italian operas and arias drawn from them.  So each aria was paired with a reading (by Paolo Frascà and Sara Galli) plus an introduction on the literary context by Sara Maida-Nicol who curated the program.  It was an interesting idea that turned out to be rather enjoyable.  Plus, none of the singers had appeared in Tuesday’s show so it was a chance to take a look at a less familiar bunch.

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First up was Scherza infida from Handel’s Ariodante, drawn of course from Ariosto.  Ariosto, Dante and Boccaccio would be recurring themes.  This was sung by César Ramirez; new to me and the first countertenor I’ve seen in the UoT opera program (ETA: Apparently from the Historical Performance program not UoT Opera which is a bit less surprising!) .  He has a fair bit of heft and can sing Handel.  It’s definitely going to be interesting to see where he goes.  Toronto is a tough place for countertenors.

Next up was soprano Lauren Estey with O mio babbino caro.  It’s a bit of a stretch but old Gianni does get a couple of verses in Dante.  It was a pretty standard “concert” version of the aria; nicely sung but without the edge it can acquire in context.  Lauren was back later as Morgana  with Tornami a vagheggiar from Alcina.  More Ariosto of course.  This gave her a bit more scope and was really quite good.  She handled the runs well and made a decent attempt to ornament the repeat.

More Dante from soprano Betty Allison with Paolo, datemi pace from Franceska di Rimini.  She would be back to close things out with Liu’s aria from Turandot (based on the play by Carlo Gozzi).  Her’s is already quite a big voice with heft enough for the standard Italian rep.  Pleasant to listen too all through her registers too.  Definitely one to watch.

To mezzoland next with Jennifer Routhier.  She sang Smanie implacabili from Così (Boccaccio) and, a couple of slots later, Tu sola from I Capuleti e i Montecchi (based on the Luigi Da Porto novella not the play by the other guy).  She has a really unusual voice and I took a few minutes to warm to it but ending up rather enjoying it.  There’s a reedy top end (vaguely reminiscent of Sondra Radvanovsky) married to a rather covered chest voice.  It’s odd but it works and she’s a very decent interpreter of text and actress.

Finally there was soprano Alida Doornberg with Voi lo sapete from Cavalleria Rusticana, oddly perhaps the only piece not based on Renaissance or retro looking text.  In this case Verga’s short story that sparked off verismo before Puccini dragged it back into the sphere of the aristocracy and the fanciful.  It was pretty decent but I’m never sure that this rep sounds all that great in concert with piano.

Piano accompaniment alternated between Frances Armstrong-Douglas and Benjamin Zsolsos.

So, an interesting twist on the usual line up of students offering a succession of random arias.  It’s an idea that could definitely be further explored.

Photo credit: Me and my iPhone (you can tell can’t you)

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