On to the arias

And so to the aria competition.  Twenty four singers in three sessions are competing for twelve places in the semifinals.  It’s piano for the first round but after that it’s the Maison Symphonique and the OSM.  As with the art song competition I’ve tried to keep my session reports free of hindsight.  This one was written between the afternoon and evening sessions last night.  It will be followed by a report on yesterday evening and tomorrow should see the post on the third session and the judges decisions.

First up in afternoon was Canadian mezzo Carolyn Sproule.  She kicked off with Strauss’ Wie du warst!, followed it up with Printemps qui commence from Samson et Delila and finished up with Ah! Quando all’ara scorgemi from Maria Stuarda.  It was all pretty good.  She’s a genuine mezzo with power enough and she got more dramatic as the set went on.  I thought it was maybe a little under-characterised but compared to much of what came later it was positively thespian.

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Birgit Nilsson’s Elektra

I grew up with the Solti Ring and Nilsson’s Immolation Scene still makes the hair on my neck bristle.  The 1980 video recording of her performance in the title role of Strauss’ Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera really doesn’t have the same effect.  The voice is accurate enough, there’s still a lot of power and the vocal acting is good but somehow the voice seems to have hollowed out and to lack resonance.  Admittedly she’s not helped by the recording which seems to favour the orchestra over the voices fairly consistently.  The other sopranos suffer from the acoustic/recording too but come off better and if Leonie Rysanek really had a high fever it’s not obvious.  Mignon Dunn’s Clytemnestra is also well sung.  The orchestra plays wonderfully for James Levine and gets much better treatment from the sound engineers. Continue reading