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La Scena Musicale Online Reviews and News / Critiques et Nouvelles

Visit La Scena Musicale Online Reviews. [Index] Critiques de La Scena Musicale Online

Montreal International Vocal Competition Finals — Day 3

By Joseph So May 19, 2005

After a number of good but perhaps not outstanding performances on Day 2, proceedings on Day 3 picked up considerably. The four contestants in order of appearance were:

Phillip Addis — baritone (Canada)

Rossini - Largo al factotum — Barbiere di Siviglia

Puccini — Questo amor, vergognia mia — Edgar

Mahler — Ich hab’ein gluhend’ Messer — Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

Mendelssohn — It is enough — Elijah

Donizetti — Cruda funesta smania — Lucia di Lammermoor

One of Canada’s up and coming singers, Addis recently won most of the top prizes in the Montreal Symphony competition. This is the first time I had a chance to hear him and I am mightily impressed. Great high notes, first of all; very bright and vibrant lyric baritone with plenty of squillo. (For the first time in the finals, there was spontaneous applause after Largo al factotum, and it continued throughout the first half. Eventually an announcement was made to ask people to wait until the end, and still there was a smattering of applause for awhile) In his Edgar aria, there was a glitch in the lighting that had everyone fearing a power failure which fortunately didn’t happen. Addis was at his best in fast moving, high and loud music; with mezza voce, there was a hint of tremolo, a slight fuzziness to his tone. His Mahler — he chose a fast song — was excellent! Dramatic but not overdone. Elijah — good diction, but his lower notes were undeniably weak. The Enrico aria from Lucia was a showstopper. In terms of pure voice, I felt he was actually superior to McGillivray, but not the depth and the maturity. But certainly Addis has a voice to be reckoned with.

Elena Xanthoudakis — soprano (Australia/Greece)

Bach — Aus liebe will mein Heiland sterben — Matthaus Passion

Stravinsky — No word from Tom — Rake’s Progress

Puccini — Chi il bel sogno — La Rodine

Mozart — In faccia all’oggetto — Mitridate re di Ponto

Gounod — Ah! Je veux vivre — Romeo et Juliette

I was really impressed with Xanthoudakis in the semis — and she did not disappoint here. A beautiful woman, in a smashing red gown and nicely tinted long hair which she swung around like a shampoo commercial, this soprano oozes stage presence. And she has a voice to match — a lovely silvery timbre and smooth legato. For the Bach, she gesticulated too much for my taste — this is not Puccini! Her Anne Trulove was the highlight — her sound a bit reminiscent of Dawn Upshaw; great acting, down to every little detail; and a very fine high C at the end. Ch’il bel sogno was lovely, but it revealed that she lacks a high pianissimo — a major weakness. The Mitridate aria also showed that her coloratura is good but not quite top class; although her tone is ideal in Mozart. By the Juliette aria, she was perhaps a bit tired, but dug deep and ended with a flourish.

Anna Kasyan — soprano (Georgia)

Vivaldi — In furore justissimae irae

Duparc — Chanson triste

Mozart — Misera, dove son

Bizet — Comme autrefois- Pearl Fishers

Donizetti — Quel guardo il cavaliere — Pasquale

The moment Kasyan stepped onto the stage, I thought — wow, she looks like a very young pre-weight-loss Callas, with a bit of Anita Cerquetti mixed in! Pace Kasyan fans — I am not saying she is fat. Far from it… she is just zaftig. Her dress with the white roses was charming and traditional. Her Vivaldi had breathtaking coloratura. And honestly if there were a grand prize for high pianissimo, Ms. Kasyan would win hands down. What incredible piano singing! In the Chanson triste, it was almost too soft. I was less impressed with her fortissimo — there was a slight edginess to her tone and the timbre seemed to change from one part of her range to another. Her stage presence was reserved, dignified, and a little static. She was at her very best in the Pearl Fishers — what incredibly beautiful piano singing. So it was unfortunate that she broke slightly in the extended cadenza that ended the piece. She was visibly upset but regrouped and smiled to the audience before launching into Norina’s aria in Pasquale. Perhaps she was still unhappy with the little accident, her Pasquale didn’t really come alive, with little interpretation like the Korean soprano Hwang two days ago. There was no ‘book’ to read, and by then some of Kasyan’s high notes were getting away from her. Still she is a very lovely artist.

Chantal Dionne — soprano (Canada)

Bach — Die Seele ruht

Duparc — Chanson triste

Puccini — Se come voi — Le Villi

Goyescas — La Maja y el Ruisenor

J. Strauss — Csardas — Die Fledermaus

Of all the singers in the competition, I find Dionne to be elegance personified; a very stylish and refined singer, very ‘French’ in her timbre. The voice is not very big, but it is pretty and she sang Chanson triste better than anyone in the competition. Her Puccini was a little underpowered, and in this repertoire, she is a bit ‘low-voltage’. Goyescas was accompanied by piano, which actually worked to her favour. It is an intimate song to begin with, and she communicated the ethereal qualities of the nightingale beautifully. I would say Chanson triste was the highlight. Her Csardas was good, and she had a tendency towards singing piano even in moments when a bit more voice would have been appropriate. There wasn’t the details in interpretation of this piece as one would have liked, and her high C sharp at the end was just touched. Her voice would be great in the French repertoire, and in the smaller opera houses.


After a wait of about 45 minutes, the audience was called back to the auditorium for the announcement of the winners. By then, it was past eleven and only the diehards were left — but the wait was worth it. The jury was seated on stage, and M. Bourbeau announced the six winners, in reverse order:

  • 1. Sin Nyung Hwang — Korea
  • 2. Peter McGillivray — Canada
  • 3. Elena Xanthoudakis — Australia/Greece
  • 4. TIE Phillip Addis of Canada and Anna Kasyan of Georgia
  • 6. Chantal Dionne — Canada

In addition, Xanthoudakis won the best interpretation of the Canadian work, Amore. She sang it without the score, a demonstration of her ‘quick-study’. And the CBC Rising Stars award was given to Phillip Addis — not a surprise at all. I had my own list, and I got four of the top six. I felt the McGillivray would win, so it came as a surprise to me and to quite a lot of people in the audience that Ms. Hwang was the winner. She was more surprised than anyone else, practically crying her way through the ceremonies — surely tears of joy! She is a lovely singer and she earned her triumph. Now the winners will be busy preparing the Gala concert on Friday. I will file another report then.

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