It’s that time of year again at UoT when the respective winners of the Norcop song prize and the Williams Koldofsdky prize for accompanying collaborate in a lunchtime recital. This year’s winners were mezzo Simona Genga and pianist Jialiang Zhu who gave us a program of songs by Schoenberg, Freedman, Berlioz and Santoliquido. The Vier Lieder Op. 2 of Schoenberg are extremely lyrical though with a rather complex and involved piano part. They played to the strengths of both musicians. Taken at fairly slow tempi they allowed Simona to show off the beauty and ease of her voice all through the registers combined with terrific breath control and spot on German diction while Jialiang had something fairly virtuosic to display her skills.
The choice Harry Freedman’s Kitchen Cantata (in fact, selections from it) was inspired. It “celebrates” the fulfilling life of a 1950’s middle class house wife in nicely ironic style. It allowed Simona to show that she can act and create a character as well as produce a steady stream of beautiful sounds.
Berlioz’ Les nuits d’été and Santoliquido’s I canti della sera(*) rounded out the program. They offered some opportunities for more up tempo and occasionally dramatic singing than the Schoenberg and, obviously, allowed Simona to show off a couple more languages but I don’t really have anything to add to what I said about the opening set. It was very fine singing and playing.
Well Simona is off to the Ensemble Studio so there should be plenty of opportunities to see the blossoming of what should be an interesting career. Jialiang is a doctoral candidate so maybe she’s bound for the Groves of the Academy but who knows? Prodigious talents both.