And so to the aria competition. Twenty four singers in three sessions are competing for twelve places in the semifinals. It’s piano for the first round but after that it’s the Maison Symphonique and the OSM. As with the art song competition I’ve tried to keep my session reports free of hindsight. This one was written between the afternoon and evening sessions last night. It will be followed by a report on yesterday evening and tomorrow should see the post on the third session and the judges decisions.
First up in afternoon was Canadian mezzo Carolyn Sproule. She kicked off with Strauss’ Wie du warst!, followed it up with Printemps qui commence from Samson et Delila and finished up with Ah! Quando all’ara scorgemi from Maria Stuarda. It was all pretty good. She’s a genuine mezzo with power enough and she got more dramatic as the set went on. I thought it was maybe a little under-characterised but compared to much of what came later it was positively thespian.
Bass Byongmin Gil was the first of three Korean basses or baritones in this set. He rocked an all black look but his singing was much more notable for power than anything else. I was optimistic about his Handel number; Tu sei il cor di questo coro but he didn’t really do anything with the repeat and his Bizet and Bellini numbers were notable mostly for sheer volume, though to be fair he was also technically very correct. Even with Maria Eve Scarfone at the piano trying to lighten things up in the Bellini it didn’t happen.
Russian soprano Dilyara Idrisova was very different Her opening and closing numbers; by Handel and Vivaldi seemed to be all about getting the maximum number of notes into unit time. Her aria from Mozart’s Zaide was more lyrical but one did get the feeling that fast runs are her thing and she’s very good at them.
Kidon Choi is another Korean; baritone this time. His choice of E sogno? O realta from Verdi’s Falstaff seemed an odd one as, powerfully sung as it was, there was no hint of the required pathos. O Maria, Maria from Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa was much better characterised with some real lyricism but his final Donizetti number was all about volume again. Seeing a pattern here?
After the interval Bulgarian tenor Mihail Mihaylov produced a nicely lyrical and well characterised set. He has the high notes and sounded lovely in Lensky’s aria. I liked his Che gelida manina too, even if he doesn’t have the pingiest of Italianate high notes. Good stuff.
Christina Nilsson is a Swedish dramatic soprano. She sounded really good with no stridency in her upper register which is not always the case for dramatic sopranos, even good ones, in smaller halls. She can float high notes as well as belt them out too. I really enjoyed her O patria mia and Dich, teure Halle and one has to admire someone who will take on Frühling in front of that jury.
The final Korean was another bass; Chanhee Cho. He started with La calumnia from the Barber of Seville. Again it was loud and accurate but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a stiffer version. It’s a bit odd when the pianist is more animated than the singer in a buffo aria. The rest of the set was similar so props to Maria-Eve Scarfone for her acting!
Last up was Emily D’Angelo. She must be the youngest singer in the competition and so far she’s far the best actor. She started with a delicious version of Contro un cor, where; shock! horror! She moved and used facial expressions. This was followed by some lyrical, heartfelt Massenet and she closed out the afternoon with a Parto! Parto! that combined emotional depth and range with spot on technique. Surely opera is supposed to convey emotion not just technical command and sheer volume?
We’ll see how the judges come down on that score tomorrow night I guess.
Photo credits: Tan Lan Truong.