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First Day of the First Jeunesses Musicales Montreal International Competition in Voice (Part II)

By Wah Keung Chan June 1, 2002

The First Jeunesses Musicales Montreal International Competition in Voice began their three marathon days of semifinals on May 30th. 51 singers from 21 countries are slated to participate. La Scena Musicale will cover the semifinals and finals on our website. Here are the comments on the afternoon and evening sessions of the first day of competition.

I shall be giving my own grades in the category of Voice and Performance.

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Chantal Dionne, soprano, Canada, 2:30 p.m.
Martin Dube, piano

Bach: "Alleluia" - BWV 51
Bellini: "Oh quanto volte!" - i Capuleti e i Montecchi
Lizst: "Enfant, si j'étais roi"
Brahms: "Feldeinsamkeit"; "Meine Liebe ist grün"

Chantal Dionne
Marc-André Brouillard
According to Kirsten Flagstad, every time she gave birth, her voice grew. Canadian soprano Chantal Dionne gave birth to a baby girl three months before the competition. The effects are quite positive; Dionne's voice has now grown allowing for greater dynamics and an even legato. In her Bellini aria, Dionne's lyric voice soared, the first singer of the day to have such a dynamic range. Her interpretation of the Lizst and Brahms songs was strong.

The requirement of an oratorio work is perplexing because most contestants either chose a work that was too difficult or that was sung with little feeling. In Dionne's case, she had trouble with the difficult runs in the Bach oratorio aria.

Voice: 90, Performance: 87

Kimy McLaren, soprano, Canada, 2:50 p.m.
Suzanne Goyette, piano

Kimy McLaren
Marc-André Brouillard
Haydn: "Welche Labung für die Sinne" - Die Jahreszeiten
Poulenc: "La Reine des Mouettes"; "C'est ainsi que tu es"; "Paganini" - Métamorphoses
Berg: "Nacht" - Sieben frühe Lieder
Bizet: "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" - Carmen

Blessed with a warm colourful voice, McLaren at once made us take notice. Her choice of less well known songs from Berg and Poulenc should score her points with the judges. Could she sing opera? Micaela's aria from Carmen serves to show that she is almost there; I found that presently McLaren's voice lacks an extra dimension of dynamics that operatic sopranos possess which could have made the performance great.

Voice: 87, Performance: 87

Alexandre Puhrer, baritone, Austria
Esther Gonthier, piano

Schubert: "Der Musensohn", "Der Fischer", "Erster Verlust", "An Schwager Kronos"
Fauré: "Dans la forêt de septembre" - Trois Mélodies, opus 85
Britten: "Look! Through the port comes the moon-shine astray!"; "And farewell to ye, old Rights o' Man!" - Billy Budd
Bach: "Komm, süsses Kreuz" - Matthäus-Passion

Alexandre Puhrer showcased a baritone of agreeable timbre. German being his language, the Schubert lieder was extremely effective. His French diction was however less so. He brought good intensity to the soliloquy from Billy Budd, in spite of some rhythmic errors. In all a voice that lacked dynamic variation.

Voice: 80, Performance: 85

Radu Cojocariu, bass, Romania
Suzanne Goyette, piano

Radu Cojocariu
Marc-André Brouillard
Mozart: "Per questa bella mano" - K. 612
Wolf: "Wohl denk' ich oft"; "Alles endet, was entstehet"; "Fühlt meine Seele" - Drei Gedichte von Michelangelo
Rorem: "To a young girl"; "Rain in spring"
Rossini: "Si, vi sara vendetta..." - Semiramide

Bass Radu Cojocariu possesses a lovely warm timbre with a good legato and dynamic range. Throughout his program, Cojocariu revealed great musicality, closing with the wonderful Rossini aria. His English diction in the Rorem was acceptable.

Voice: 90, Performance: 95

Lucia Salas, soprano, Mexico
Martin Dubé, piano

Lucia Salas
Marc-André Brouillard
Rossini: "Una voce poco fa" - Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Händel: "Let the bright Seraphim" - Samson
Rodrigo: "Y con qué la lavaré"; "Vos me matasteis"; "De donde venis, amores?"; "De los álamos vengo, madre" - Cuatro madrigales amatorios
Schubert: "Im Frühling"; "Gretchem am Spinnrade"

Lucia Salas was my favourite singer of the second session. Her slim light coloratura soprano was well-placed, possessing a good legato and natural execution. Throughout, her diction was clear. She chose a difficult repertoire to show different aspects of her artistry. She exhibited fine coloratura in the Rossini and Handel pieces, and was entrancing in the Spanish songs. One would rarely associate "Gretchem am Spinnrade" with a light voice, but Salas captured the mood completely.

Voice: 95, Performance: 95

Christina Tannous, soprano, Canada
Suzanne Goyette, piano

Christina Tannous
Marc-André Brouillard
Mozart: "Misera, dove son!... Ah! non son'io che parlo, " - K. 369
Schubert: "Du bist die Ruh"
Charpentier: "Depuis le jour" - Louise
Obradors: "Da caballo más sutil"; "Chiquitita la novia"

Christina Tannous's program of four slow pieces served to accentuate her strengths of singing a good legato. Throughout, Tannous exhibited a lovely pianissimo. She started tentatively in Mozart's concert aria. Spurred on by local fans, Tannous recovered to give a poised performance of the remaining three selections. The audience was entranced by the lovely floating pianissimis but I found that often in full voice she was missing the core of her sound. The sameness in the program did not reveal the other aspects of her artistry.

Voice: 88, Performance: 88

Milena Kotliar, mezzo, Russia, 7:30 p.m

Stravinsky: "Nonn'erubescite reges" - Oedipus Rex
Rachmaninov: "Moisson de tristesse"
Duparc: "Chanson triste"
Verdi: "Vieni! t'affretta!" - Macbeth

A musical error marred Milena Kotliar's performance. In the second phrase of Duparc's Chanson triste, Kotliar began in the wrong key. Up until that point, she sang an effective Stravinsky, and an emotional Rachmaninov. Kotliar had two spoken recitatives in a well project voice, in the Stravinsky and Verdi. Both times, she injected the text with the same monotonic inflection. Kotliar's voice was warm and strong in the characteristic Russian sense, but lacked a good legato and even vibrato. Kotliar left the stage immediately after the Verdi, clearly unhappy with her performance.

Voice: 85, Performance: 80

Caterina-Cellia Costea, soprano, Romania
Paul Helmer, piano

Bellini: "Col sorriso d'innocenza" - Il Pirata
Händel: "How beautiful are the feet of them" - Messiah
Strauss: "Morgen"- Vier Lieder, opus 27
Poulenc: "Les chemins de l'amour" - Léocadia

Costea showed a rich tone not particularly flexible enough for the Handel. Her diction was almost acceptable. She had a tendency to lift her upper tossel for higher notes, breaking the vocal line, which was particularly noticeable in Morgen. Sometimes her vowels were in transition settling in after a delay. Poulenc was good. Her fine schooling in legato was evident. She gave it her all in the Bellini.

Voice: 87, Performance: 93

Gregory Brookes, bass-baritone , Canada
Andrea Reimes, piano

Händel: "Thus saith the Lord... But who may abide" - Messiah
Brahms: "O Tod, wie bitter bist duŠ" - Vier ernste Gesänge
Rossini: "La calunnia" - Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Finz: "Who is Silvia?"; "Fear no more the heat o' the sun"; " It was a lover and his lass " - Let Us Garlands Bring

Canadian Gregory Brooks's husky bass-baritone gave an earnest account of the Messiah aria. Although there were no vocal flaws I found that there was a general sameness in tempo throughout, thus negating the dramatic impact. While Brooks has a pleasant timbre, I felt that the placement of his voice was too low, in his throat. While not unpleasant, the voice did not appear to be at the stage where he could command the dynamic ranges necessary for the repertoire.

Voice: 80, Performance: 80

Se-Jin Lee, soprano, Korea

Se-Jin Lee
Mathieu Lavoie
Verdi: "Caro nome" - Rigoletto
Haydn: "Nun beut die Flur" - Die Schöpfung
Fauré: "Notre amour" - Trois Mélodies, opus 23
Brahms: "Feldeinsamkeit" - Sechs Lieder, opus 86

Se-Jin Lee demonstrated the most perfect technique thus far. The voice was warm, with an evenness throughout her range, full control of dynamics and a wonderful legato. In the caro nome aria, we had the closest thing to a true mezza di voce. She reminded me of soprano Ruth Ann Swenson. The major regret was a lack of musical feeling and dramatic presence. If she can work on this aspect of singing, we could be witness to a great singer.

Voice: 98, Performance: 85

Michele Bogdanowicz, mezzo, Canada
Esther Gonthier, piano

Mozart: "Vedrai, carino" - Don Giovanni
Vivaldi: "Qui sedes" - Gloria
Wolf: "Mein Liebster singt am Haus" - Italienisches Liederbuch
Poulenc: "Je n'ai plus que les os" - Poèmes de Ronsard

Young mezzo Michele Bogdanowicz gave a good account of herself amongst this international field. More refinement and dramatic maturity will allow her to be classed in the top half.

Voice: 82, Performance: 82

John Matz, tenor, USA
Martin Dubé, piano

John Matz
Mathieu Lavoie
Haydn: "In native worth and honor clad" - Die Schöpfung
Floyd: "It must make the good Lord sad" - Susannah
Giannini: "Tell me, oh blue, blue sky"
Strauss: "Morgen" - Vier Lieder, opus 27

The only tenor of the competition, the voice of 24-year-old John Matz is bright in the tradition of Jerry Hadley coloured with a suggestion of a lyric tenor. Some Domingo mannerisms have already manifested themselves in his voice, which is troubling. Matz started well in the Haydn, but nerves may have played a part in a memory lapse in the Floyd aria. With a cue from Dubé, Matz was back on track. The first three selections seem to emphasis the angst, which is perhaps not the best repertoire for a young tenor. Strauss's Morgen allowed Matz to reveal his sensitive side. The first half seemed a bit rushed and the muscular approach to the high note was out of place. The second half was quite moving and Matz closed with a touching pianissimo for the first time in the performance.

Voice: 87, Performance: 87

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