Last night the final eight aria contestants performed. Canadian mezzo Marie-Andrée Mathieu was up first. Meyerbeer’s Nobles seigneurs, salut! showed genuine mezzo colours, good control and some dramatic flair. Parto! Parto! was pleasant but not as dramatic as one might expect. Certainly the range of emotion on display was markedly less than Emily D’Angelo the day before. Amour, viens rendre mon âme from Gluck’s Orphée showed she could handle long runs. So it was a solid performance but maybe not at the level needed against this field.
Czech tenor Peter Nekoranec offered an interesting selection. Konstanze… O wie ängstlich from Entführung is pretty standard Mozart tenor fare and he sang it stylishly with control and pleasing timbre. Waft her, angels from Handel’s Jeptha is much more off the beaten track and he sang it very well with excellent diction and a true sense of the “English Handel” style. Oddly I think this is the only English Handel so far. The final number was a gutsy choice’ Ah! mes amis from La fille du régiment and he carried it off with aplomb. High Cs and all.
John Brancy was next. He opened with Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen. It was sung with predictable power and control but I’m not sure the rather dark colours of Brancy’s voice work so well on this one. Ah! Per sempre io te perdu from I Puritani was a better fit and sung quite expressively. The best was saved for last with a blistering account of Sibilar gilmangu d’Aletto from Rinaldo. There’s always something a bit special about a low voice doing real coloratura and Brancy does. No head wagging fakes here! I had a feeling he was perhaps holding back a bit in this set and saving something for the laster rounds but he was clearly doing enough to make the cut.
Ruslana Koval from Ukraine started off with a very nice rendering of S podrujkami po jagodu knodit from Rimsky Korsakoff’s Snegúrochka. She has a bright sound and a decent amount of power and was expressive. The other two offerings though couldn’t match it. Her coloratura was a bit harsh in Ach ich liebe war so glücklich from Entführung and her No word from Tom was just wrong with no sense of the required neo-classical style plus garbled English.
After the break we got to hear Cécile Muhire. She was a late replacement for a cancellation and, honestly, didn’t sound like she belonged in this company. Full marks for offering up a short Berg piece but her Mozart and Rossini showed a voice at least a couple of sizes smaller then the competition coupled with a sort of “stage absence” rather than “presence”. All in all, more like a grad student recital than a major competition.
Rihab Chaieb was next with some fierce Mozart; Il padre adorato from Idomeneo. It was dramatic and showed some interesting dark colours. Vois sous l’archet frémissant from Tales of Hoffmann was expressive, generous and extremely dramatic. It also showed off clear, controlled high notes. And unsurprisingly there was Carmen in the form of L’amour est un oiseau rebelle which had part of the audience on their feet shouting their heads off.
Korean tenor Mario Bahg, a bit of a competition specialist judging by his bio, kicked off with La fleur que je t’avais jetée from Carmen. He sang in a full, rather beautiful voice but I couldn’t understand a word! He was much better in Dies Bildnis and probably better still in Una furtiva lagrima which was very beautiful if maybe a touch oversung. Still, it was a very solid performance.
The last competitor was Ukrainian base Mikhail Golovushkin. His rendering of A te l’estremo addio… Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra showed genuine bass timbre coupled with some real expressiveness. His version of Quand la flamme de l’amour (one of those arias one often hears in recitals from an opera hardly performed) was dramatic and showed he has decent high notes for a genuine bass. Madamina, il catalogo è questo was OK. He showed decent agility and a sense of comic timing though maybe not great Italian.
And then it was over to the judges…
Photo credits: Tam Lan Truong