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Soprano Cheryl Hickman Makes Glenn Gould Recital Debut

By Joseph So / February 18, 2001

On Thursday, February 15th, Canadian soprano Cheryl Hickman gave a recital at the CBC Glenn Gould Studio, as part of the Music Around Us series to be broadcast on Sunday February 18th. On offer was an eclectic mix of Rossini, Ravel, Barber, Bolcom, Copland, Musto, and Britten.

A native of Newfoundland, Cheryl Hickman is that rare breed of dramatic sopranos with an exceptionally beautiful middle voice and sufficient volume and the requisite cutting edge essential for a future in Wagner and Strauss. The middle is reminiscent of a very young Kirsten Flagstad, the upper middle of Regine Crespin and Eileen Farrell – not exactly your run-of-the-mill soprano! Her participation at last August's COC Altamira Harbourfront Concert, singing "Il est doux, il est bon" from Herodiade was easily a highlight of the evening, despite having to compete with the disco cruise boat on opening night.

On this occasion, she warmed up with three songs from Rossini's Soirees musicales, followed by Ravel's Cinq melodies populaires grecques. The voice has the flexibility and beauty to do these songs full justice. One only wishes for more chiaroscuro, more piano at the top range to give it a fuller range of colours, but what she does have is already heads and shoulders above most of her contemporaries. Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer 1915 is a gorgeous cycle, and often programmed in recitals. Hickman sang it well, without erasing the memories of some of the great exponents of the work, the likes of Leontyne Price, Eleanor Steber, and even Dawn Upshaw.

The final group of four songs by contemporary composers was to these ears the most successful of the recital. Hickman sang with lovely tone and textual nuance, with a nice sense of humour thrown in. Particularly vivid was Bolcom's Amor, often sung by prima donnas as an encore. Hickman's version ranks among the best of them.

Now finished with the COC Ensemble, Cheryl Hickman leaves for major engagements in the U.S. and elsewhere. If this recital is any indication, there is no doubt that she has the potential to be an important singer of her generation.

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