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, 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.
There’s been a fair amount of buzz about what competitions are for going on both on-line and here in Montreal. Lydia at Definitely the Opera raised the question in comments and it came up in conversation at the Salle Bourgie a couple of times last night. I suppose the basic question is are competitions a way for younger, less well known, singers to get notice, attract an agent etc or are they a way for more established young singers to cement their reputation (and maybe make some money)? It’s a reasonable thing to ask because it’s asking a lot to expect a 25 year old in a young artists program to compete with a thirty something who has sung significant roles on major stages.
Both types of singer are evident in Montreal this week. The singers range in age from 24 to 35 with a median age of 29.5. Experience ranges from “left the conservatory last year” to “has sung at the Met”. It really stands out in the hall too. There’s a world of difference between an established and polished performer like John Brancy or Rihab Chaieb and someone new to the limelight like Olga Rudyk. (The frighteningly mature and confident Emily D’Angelo being the exception that proves the rule!).
It’s also been suggested that there is almost becoming something of a competition “circuit”. Many of the CMIM competitors (and judges) also featured at the last Wigmore Hall competition. It’s an interesting thought, especially for art song. Maybe a competition format would drum up more interest than conventional recitals (though rules severely restricting the use of certain songs would surely be necessary).
So I guess I wasn’t that impressed with the first session in the aria competition; too much loud, technically correct, but dull singing. Things were much better in the evening though. First up was Russian mezzo Alexandra Yangel. She was very personable and fun to watch but a bit wayward vocally. Nobles seigneurs, Salut! from Les Huguenots was dramatic and lyrical in places but her upper register gets quite squally. This was even more noticeable in the aria from La Cenerentola that followed. I liked the passion and the vocal acting ability in her Smanie, implacabili though.