So back to the Salle Bourgie for the second and final batch of art song contestants. First up was mezzo Hagar Sharvit. I liked her. It’s a genuine mezzo voice and if her Fauré and Schubert offerings were a bit “flow of beautiful tone” they displayed plenty of power and a nice ability to spin a line. Her version of Britten’s O Waly, Waly was rather good ; more dramatic and with perfect diction. A strong start.
John Brancy, fresh off his Lotte Lenya competition win, was always likely to prove a strong contender and so it proved. His rendering of Finzi’s weirdly spooky Channel Firing was dramatic, powerful and crystal clear. Maybe it was a touch too dramatic but it was very fine. Schubert’s Nachtstück was very beautiful and there was drama and power in his Debussy offering.
Soprano Suzanne Taffot clearly had home town support and showed it was warraned. Her version of Schubert’s Die junge Nonne was beautiful. She was amusingly playful in Hahn’s Fêtes Galantes and she displayed excellent English diction and the ability to float a high note in Glick’s O, Let Him Kiss Me (with bonus for the only CanCon of the day). She finished up with some very pleasant Bachelet. So at this point I was thinking that the goalposts had been moved and the judges job was going to get even harder. Could this be maintained?
Well maybe, maybe not, was my reaction to the next singer Finnish baritone Tom Punkeri. He produced a good version of Wolf’s Der Tambour with some nice acting with the voice but his take on Vaughan-Williams’ Youth and Love was barely recognisable as English. Then it was onto numbers by Schubert, Fauré and Strauss which were pretty but I thought a bit woolly. Not the kind of diction I like for in art song.
After the break we heard soprano Anna-Sophie Neher. She gave us two Schubert numbers. I thought her Auf dem Wasser zu singen was nicely characterised but a bit fluttery but Nacht und Träume was rather lovely. I also liked her rendition of Barber’s St. Ita’s Vision which had some real emotional depth. A couple of Fauré pieces rounded out a decent set.
Indonesian tenor Satriya Krisna offered up six pieces! He’s very much a lyrical tenor in rather an English sort of way. It’s a lightish voice but his high notes are sweet and he has some power. His diction is very good in German and OK in French and English. His Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert offerings were vetry good but I wasn’t as convinced by the Bridge and Fauré. His pianist, Felix Justin, really shone here though.
American mezzo Clara Osowski was interesting. She has a very bright “soprano 2” sound which she used to good effect in the two Schubert numbers that framed her set. Bei dir allein!, in particular, was real Lieder singing. I also like her English contributions a lot. There was an idiomatic account of Britten’s Sephestia’s Lullabye and an interesting version of Argento’s Parents; which dips into near speech like production at times. A skilled and versatile performer.
The final contestant was Chinese soprano Mengxi You who was quite charming. Her Die junge Nonne was real story telling coupled with a rather rich and pleasant tone. She had an interesting and enjoyable take on Britten’s Wild with Passion (great pianism here from Jennifer Szeto). Debussy, Ravel and Strauss was wrapped up with an exuberant and witty account of Canteloube’s Lou Coucut. It’s tough to get the crowd excited at the end of a long day but she did.
Once again, I’ve barely touched on the pianists but, again, the standard was very high.
So, if anything the general standard in the evening was even higher than the afternoon. It was going to be tough for the judges!
Photo credits: Tan Lan Truong