The 2021/22 winner of the Wirth Vocal prize at McGill’s Schulich Schoolof Music is Innu soprano Elisabeth Saint-Gelais. She performed in the RBA at noon on Wednesday, accompanied by Louise Pelletier. It was impressive. She has power to burn and a rather lovely voice and, not so common among young dramatic sopranos, considerable control across her registers. She also displayed considerable linguistic skill in French, German and Czech though I’m completely unqualified to comment on the quality of her Anishinabe.
Cantilena is a CD of art songs by various composers arranged for soprano, harp and cello. It’s an interesting twist on music that one is likely to be fairly (sometimes very) familiar with in the usual voice and piano format. It’s a generous disk with nineteen songs in all. The composers featured are Debussy, Duparc, Fauré, Massenet, Tosti, Tedeschi, Richard Strauss, Gregory and Villa-Lobos. The performers are soprano Gillian Zammit, harpist Britt Arend and cellist Frank Camilleri. Arend and Camilleri are principals with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
Yesterday Matthew Cairns and Rachel Kerr performed an unusually wide range of songs in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. It’s part of Matthew’s prep for his CBC recording session which was part of the prize at last year’s Centre Stage and which will be broadcast in the new year. They kicked off with a contrasting pair of Duparc song’s. First came the almost dreamy L’invitation au voyage with it’s arpeggio accompaniment followed by the much more dramatic Le manoir de Rosemonde. These really set the tone for the recital. There was power where it was needed but also considerable delicacy from both singer and pianist.
Yesterday saw the 1000th concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (*) since the house opened in 2006. Fittingly it was given by Susan Bullock who sang Brünnhilde in the Canadian premier of the Ring Cycle that christened the new theatre. She was accompanied by Liz Upchurch who has also been around since before the new house existed.
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert was my second chance in just over a week to see Erin Wall in recital, in a completely different program from the Mazzoleni gig. There were three sets. First up were Korngold’s Three Songs Op.22. I’m all for more German songs in recitals, especially someone other than the Schus, but I wasn’t really taken with these. They seem closer to the later film music in style than to, say Die tote Stadt. They got the operatic treatment from Erin which is probably not a bad thing here.
Yesterday’s free lunchtime concert should have been the first opportunity to see Simone Osborne and Gordon Bintner in recital together but, sadly, Gordon had the lurgy so, if you want to see them perform together you will just have to go and see L’elisir d’amore at the COC. Fortunately Andrew Haji was able to jump in at short notice. Not such a bad guy to have on the bench!
Andrew started out with Santoliquido’s I canti della sera. I had heard him sing these before at Mazzoleni but it was good to hear them again. Genuine Italian art song isn’t all that common and these show the voice off nicely. There was both some lovely limpid singing and plenty of power when needed. He’s a pretty good story teller too. He also gave us the three Duparc songs that he and Liz Upchurch, once again at the piano, gave us earlier in the year. Again the standout was Le manoir de Rosemonde, a most beautiful and haunting song given the full treatment here.
Today’s noon recitalists in the RBA were Andrew Haji and Liz Upchurch. We had been promised Britten’s Serenade but an absence of non-knackered horn players due to the COC’s Götterdämmerung run scuppered that and instead we got a very varied program of songs and arias on the theme of love and its travails. Four Brahms songs kicked things off and produced some very fine lieder singing. Beautiful throughout with fine phrasing, characterisation and diction there was more. The final “wonnewoll” of Wie bist du, meine Königin was a thing of floaty beauty and there was a real sense of ecstasy in Mein Liebe ist grün.
The Academy Program is an important part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. It allows selected young artists; singers, collaborative pianists and chamber/orchestral musicians, to work with experienced professionals in an intensive series of coachings, masterclasses etc culminating in a concert series. This year the mentors for the vocal/collaborative piano component were pianist Craig Rutenberg, who has worked everywhere and with everybody, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; a last minute replacement for an indisposed Anne Schwannewilms. I didn’t make it to any of the masterclasses, though word on the street is that they were exceptional, but I did make it to yesterday’s lunchtime concert in Walter Hall.
British baritone Christopher Purves was the lunch special at the Four Seasons Centre today. Along with the amazing Liz Upchurch he gave us a most enjoyable program of Handel, Duparc and Mussorgsky. The two Handel arias were drawn from Handel’s two very different takes on Ovid’s Acis and Galatea. The first from the later (1718) English version “I rage, I melt, I burn!… O ruddier than the cherry tree” is a mostly comic furioso recitative and aria sung with great drama and not a little comedy by Chris but it was rather eclipsed by the next number taken from the earlier (1708) Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. Polyphemus’ aria “Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori” is just nuts but very beautiful. It ranges from the D below the bass staff to the A above it and is a continuous series of insane intervals accompanied by a really simple and very beautiful piano part. It’s amazing anybody can sing it all let alone as well as it was done here.
Up and coming Canadian bass-baritone Philippe Sly was joined last night by veteran collaborative pianist Julius Drake for a program of chansons and lieder at Walter Hall. The 490 seat hall was almost full which is rather nice to see for a song recital in Toronto. The first half was devoted to chansons by Duparc, Ropartz and Ravel. I was struck by the restraint of Sly’s singing. It was conversational and not operatic at all but very expressive. I think that takes a lot of guts in a young singer. He let the words and music do the talking and didn’t exaggerate. This was perhaps best shown in the drinking song from the Don Quichotte songs of Ravel. He was very funny but sounded like a drunk, not somebody overacting the idea of a drunk. Continue reading →