Today saw the annual lunchtime concert in the RBA in which members of the COC Ensemble Studio collaborate with visitors from the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. There were three singers from each program but rather unusually only one of them was female; soprano France Bellemare. Naturally I was rather focussed on the visiting singers as the three Toronto participants; Gordon Bintner, Clarence Frazer and Andrew Haji are very much known quantities. Of the visitors it was very much Ms. Bellemare who shone. She has a very accurate, lovely rich voice with perhaps still some work to do on the top of her range but very easy to listen to and she’s musically and dramatically convincing too. Her version of Micaëla’s Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante was very competent though I’m not sure it’s ideal rep for her. The Song to the Moon from Rusalka though fitted her like a glove. This was really lovely singing. She also did very well in duet with Clarence Frazer in Lippen schweigen from Die Lustige Witwe or The Merry Widow or La Veuve Joyeuse as all three languages were used! She can waltz too though perhaps not as well as Clarence. Ladies, if you need a dance partner consider Mr. Frazer. She also shone in the final number; the Libiamo from La Traviata. I confess when I saw the program and saw that she would be partnered by Andrew Haji I rather expected her to be sung off the stage. She wasn’t. She held her own with a tenor who will sing this role on the COC’s main stage next season. No mean feat. This young lady is definitely one to watch.
Opera Five’s schtick is that they satisfy all five senses. In their current show that means matching a food offering with each of the three short operas on display. It’s a neat idea. In the current show a palindromic skewer of sausage, pickle and cheese is matched with the palindromic Hindemith work Hin und Zurück, assorted Russian pasty like objects are paired with Rachmaninov’s Aleko and some sort of chocolate on a stick thing with Milton Granger’s 1999 piece Talk Opera.