In another nod to normality the COC’s free concert series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre kicked off with the traditional concert with the members of the Ensemble Studio. It was reasonably well attended, which is good news. But unlike previous years one didn’t need to be there an hour early to get a seat. Which is not so good news. I’m really curious to see when and if we start to get back to pre-plague audiences.
For me in previous years, this concert has been about taking stock; an opportunity to reflect on which members of the ES have progressed and how. Yesterday was much harder as I’ve seen little of any of them (live at least) for two and a half years. Some things though stood out. Midori Marsh, who kicked off the show with “Caro nome” has matured quite a lot. She’s always had a terrific voice but here she showed as a much more polished and poised performer. Alex Hetherington is also something of a known quality with her excellent 2021 Norcop Prize recital one of the better streamed events of the pandemic. She gets bonus points for singing “Lord, to Thee Each Night” from Handel’s Theodora. It’s a highly charged and technically awkward piece that demonstrated her technique and artistic sensibility nicely.
Newcomer, and unknown quantity (to me), mezzo Queen Hezumuryango also gave us some Handel. This time it was “Hence, Iris, Hence Away” from Semele. I was impressed. Her English diction is excellent (and rather British) and she’s not afraid to have fun with the repeats. She also has that indefinable quality, stage presence. One to watch I think.
Those were the highlights for me in a generally high standard performance. We also got Alex Halliday sang “Il lacerato spirito” from Simon Boccanegra with some considerable drama. Newcomer Ariane Cossette with a spirited “Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. Jonah Spungin sang “Per me giunto” from Verdi’s Don Carlo and Charlotte Spiegel gave us “Donde lieta usci” from La Bohème. Skilled accompaniment, as ever, was provided tis time by Brian Cho and Vlad Soloviev.
As always it will be fascinating to watch how these singers develop over the course of the season. The next chance to see them as a group is on December 15th when they will be performing “beloved songs, both sacred and secular, that evoke both the cold of the natural world and the warmth of the winter holidays.”
Photo credits: Karen E. Reeves