And so to the concluding drama; judgement. There were a ton of prizes ($270,000 in all) and the “lesser” ones got announced first. So here’s the list of everybody except the winners of the two main competitions:
- Best Canadian in aria: Emily D’Angelo
- Best Canadian in art song: Rihab Chaieb
- French mélodie: John Brancy
- German Lied: Julien van Mellaerts
- Oratorio: Andrew Haji
- Opera aria: Mario Bagh
- Pianist: João Araújo
- People’s choice – aria: Emily D’Angelo
- People’s choice – art song: Clara Osowski
And so the final act. First on stage was Emily D’Angelo; the only lady left in the competition. It was an accomplished and varied set. She started with a characterful and technically proficient Una voce poco fa followed by an appropriately lyrical Must the winter come so soon? Coeur sans amour from the Massenet Cendrillon showed off excellent French before a suitably dramatic rendering of the Komponist’s aria from Ariadne. Pretty much all the mezzo bases covered there and covered very well.
I missed the aria semis but here are the singers who will feature in the final tomorrow night:
- Emily D’Angelo (Canada – Italy), mezzo-soprano
- Andrew Haji (Canada), tenor
- Konstantin Lee (South Korea), tenor
- John Brancy (United States), baritone
- Mario Bahg (South Korea), tenor
- Mikhail Golovushkin (Russia), bass
That which had to be done is done. What follows is a write up from my notes of Sunday’s art song final. Please bear in mind that I was less than fully emotionally engaged and you may well prefer Gianmarco Segato’s thoughtful review.
Julien van Mellaerts sang first. He started off in conventional territory with Strauss, Schumann and Wolf; showing good command of the Lieder style, expressiveness and a willingness to vary dynamics. A pleasing version of Adams’ For You There is No Song was followed by the weird and somewhat chilling Genius Child by Owens; a neat contrast. The set concluded with Debussy’s Trois ballades de François Villon. There was some lovely, delicate singing here with some ravishing floating notes. Overall, as in the previous rounds, very good stuff without, perhaps, having the X factor.
So, ironically enough, as the Toronto critics began to arrive in Montreal for the final stages of the CMIM, personal circumstances forced my return to Toronto. It’s not a happy time and my emotional ability to engage with performances is very limited. I realised this yesterday at the art song final where four very fine performances failed to generate any emotional response in me. It was at that point I finally admitted to myself that my duty and my sanity lay at home and I made my arrangements to return. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch at least some of the webcasts but even that may be hard for the next 24-48 hours. So, my apologies if this is where you have been following the CMIM. Both Opera Canada and Schmopera, among others, will have full coverage so I suggest you check them out. I’ll see you again on the other side.
So sitting in the hall waiting for the judges to come back I made my own list of the likely finalists and reflected on a few things. I had Summerfield and Brancy clearly top, despite their contrasting styles. Osowsky and van Mellaerts seemed the most likely to join them in the final though I would not have ruled out one of the others sneaking the fourth place. And it turned out that Brancy, Osowsky, Summerfield and van Mellaerts were, indeed, the judges’ choice.
So, the evening session in Bourgie Hall. Gemma Summerfield sang first, kicking off with two Mendelssohn songs. Die Liebende schreibt showed off proper Lieder singing. It was restrained and pure with every word distinct. Hexenlied was appropriately more dramatic but still quite correct with a good sense of story telling. A very good start. Ravel’s Cinq mélodies, which followed displayed excellent French in varied moods and some lovely piano playing from Sebastian Wybrew. There was more of the same from both of them with a lovely version of Korngold’s Drei Lieder before things wrapped up with stylish and entirely idiomatic versions of Bridge’s Go Not Happy Day and Love went a Riding. The latter was an object lesson in how to tell a story without going over the top. This was a very, very fine set and jumped Summerfield to the top of my provisional “leader board”.
So the first four semifinalists have sung. It’s interesting. Julien van Mellaerts sang a very restrained, very Liederish set while all three girls were more dramatic. A lot is going to turn on the judges views on the “right way” to do art song. If the prelims are anything to go by I suspect they tend more to the operatic than I do. We shall see.
Julien van Mellaerts kicked off with Schubert. Der Einsame was a model of Germanic restraint but he clearly had plenty of power in reserve and let it out a bit in the more dramatic Rastlose Liebe. Mahler’s Zu Strassburg auf der Schantz was lovely and lyrical and showed real ability to shape a line. Gurney’s In Flanders showed off clean high notes plus a sense of style. His version of Butterworth’s Is my team ploughing? almost teetered into the mannered. It was lovely but a little precious à la Bostridge. Songs by Fauré and Duparc were sung stylishly to round out a set that was very much to my taste but will it please the judges?
As previously I made my own lists before the official announcements. It wads a little trickier than the art song competition because I really had no sense of how the judges would react to the loud but unexpressive Koreans. There is after all a need in opera for powerful low voices even if they aren’t great actors. So I made them a separate category. So then, my guesses:
Probables: Bahg, Brancy, Chaieb, D’Angelo, Haji, Lee, Nekoranec, Nilsson, Yang
Maybes: Golovushkin, Hovhannisyan, Kyreiev, Mathieu, Mihaylov, Sproule
Probably nots: Idrisova, Koval, Margison, Muhire, Rudyk, Yangel
Fafners: Cho, Choi, Gil
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.