Georgian Romance

Hearing Anita Rachvelishvili sing Carmen on the main stage of the Four Seasons Centre, it was obvious that she had a huge voice with really interesting colours.  The full scope only became apparent to me hearing her in recital in the RBA today.  It’s an extraordinary instrument that can go from a very delicate pianissimo to very loud indeed  without any obvious change in quality.  There’s no steeliness or squalliness as the volume ramps up.  Just the same colours and rich tone.  A blow by blow account of a concert that included music in Georgian by Tabidze, Russian by Rachmaninov, French by Fauré and Spanish by de Falla seems superfluous.  There was delicacy.  There was drama.  There was humour.  There was playfulness.  All in less than an hour.  And to cap it off there were encores; Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson et Delilah and, perhaps inevitably, the Seguidilla from Carmen.  Stephen Hargreaves was at the piano.  One wonders if he actually lives at the hall.  He covered a wide range of material from the delicate to the impressively percussive with his customary skill.

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Photo credit: Lara Hintelmann

Fruitful and Sacred Ground

Yesterday’s recital in the RBA was given by soprano Simone Osborne and the very busy pianist Stephen Hargreaves.  The program began with three Mozart songs that I was not familiar with; Oiseaux, si tous les ans, Dans un bois solitaire and An Chloe.  They were unfamiliar to me but Mozartian in a pleasing, intimate way; very much songs rather than concert arias.  They got a clean, rather dramatic reading with real feeling from both parties.  Next came the Ariettes oubliées of Debussy.  Here we have texts by Verlaine of a mostly languorous ecstasy variety with a complex, very impressionistic piano part.  Indeed they really do sound like pieces composed by someone who prefers writing for the piano and Stephen brought out their somewhat ethereal qualities nicely.  Still the soprano gets to spin some very beautiful languorously ecstatic lines and there’s even one piece; Chevaux de bois, where the mood changes and the singer can have some fun.  Which Simone did.

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Beware of the leopard!

Clémentine Margaine prowled the RBA like an exotic and rather dangerous feline.  A total stage animal, she created a stunning series of female personae, from the virginal to the very much not, to bring to life a well curated selection of Spanish and French pieces.  She started with the 7 Canciones populares Españoles of de Falla which set the tone as they communicate a wide variety moods and temperaments in a very short space of time.  Each little song was fully invested with its own drama. And her eyes.  Incredible!  Granados’ La maja dolorosa followed.  By this point I was really beginning to understand why Ms. Margaine is so sought after.  It’s a big, dark, sexy voice.  I would probably have realised the sheer size of the voice more on Wednesday if I hadn’t been comparing her to the absolutely enormous sound of Anita Rashvelishvili.  It’s a wonderfully expressive instrument perhaps lacking a really strong upward extension but, overall, lovely to listen to.

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Young artists

The prizewinnersThe Canadian Opera Company has announced the addition of three singers and a pianist to the Ensemble Studio for next season.  The singers, unsurprisingly, are the three prize winners from November’s Centre Stage; Soprano Karine Boucher, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and bass-baritone Iain MacNeil,  The pianist is Jennifer Szeto.  The COC also announced the setting up of an orchestral equivalent of the Ensemble Studio in which a number of young musicians will work with Johannes Debus and the COC Orchestra.  Names were announced on Wedneday night but I can’t find them in any of the press releases. Continue reading