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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

Chant 2007 Finals Day 1

By Joseph So May 29, 2007

After an intensive week of semi-final competitions where thirty-two entrants from eleven countries sang their hearts out, the illustrious jury panel chose twelve singers to take part in the final round, which began this evening at Théâtre Maisonneuve. The audience was unusually knowledgeable, attentive and appreciative. We heard four finalists on this first day, each singing four songs or arias lasting up to thirty minutes.

Julie Boulianne (Canada) mezzo-soprano
Mozart – “Parto, parto” from La clemenza di Tito
Duparc – Au pays où se fait la guerre
Berlioz – “Dieu! Que viens-je d’entendre” from Béatrice et Bénédict
Rossini – “Una voca poco fa” from Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Boulianne is an elegant, refined, sensitive artist, with a soft-grained, modest- sized voice that is at its best in softer dynamics. She wasn’t sufficiently warmed up in “Parto, parto” – an exacting piece of music that requires the singer to be in top form. As a result, it didn’t have the visceral impact that it should. By the Duparc piece, she hit her stride and sang quite beautifully. Her best singing was the long, taxing aria from Béatrice et Bénédict – she did some very lovely soft singing here. Her Rosina had fine coloratura and nice expression – I liked it quite a lot. Her timbre, while pleasing, sounded a little veiled and covered and a little underpowered. At climaxes or at the top of her range, she summoned enough resources to produce a big sound, but it was a little pushed and you could tell she was giving her all and there wasn’t much left in reserve. Her stage presence was a little too reticent and reserved for my taste – she didn’t take command of the stage. I didn’t sense a ‘here I am – look at me’ sort of self- confidence. The design of her pink chiffon dress didn’t help – it looked dangerously old-fashioned, looking a bit like elegant drapery. Overall a good impression but it could have been better.

Etienne Dupuis (Canada) baritone
Mozart – “Vedro mentr’io sospiro” from Le nozze di Figaro
Gounod – “Avant de quitter ces lieux” from Faust
Ravel – Don Quichotte à Dulcinee
Verdi – “O Carlo, ascolta” from Don Carlo

Dupuis has a light, lyric baritone with a resplendent top and a relatively weak lower register. The voice has a beautiful timbre; he is a musical, well schooled, and polished singer. This is the kind of voice that’s ideal in Pelleas. He also has great stage presence and exudes self confidence. The Nozze aria was well sung but again, there wasn’t a lot of power. It is on the small side and he tries to make a big sound, bigger than it is naturally. Having said that, I liked almost everything he did tonight. The Valentin aria was gorgeous, with impressive, free high notes. The selected Dulcinée songs show nice flexibility to the tone, and vivid acting to match. Everything was going swimmingly until Rodrigo’s death scene. First, the brass cracked in the beginning of the aria – these things happen unfortunately! But much more serious was the disastrous miscue in the orchestra in the middle of the aria, when everything ground to a screeching halt. Lipton said something to the orchestra and playing resumed momentarily, but there were more lapses in the playing for the rest of the aria. Was this sorry state of affairs due to some miscommunication between the singer and the orchestra? Was there perhaps a cut to the aria that was not properly communicated? This really shouldn’t have happened and it could be very damaging for the singer. To his credit, Dupuis maintained his composure and sang strongly throughout the aria. He received a strong, well deserved ovation.

Daniel Lee (Korea) baritone
Donizetti – “Leonore, viens” from La Favorite
Mozart – “Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo” from Cosi fan tutte
Mahler – Ich hab’ ein gluhend’ Messer
Bizet – “L’orage s’est calmé” from Les Pecheurs de perles

Unlike the “bari-tenor” of Dupuis, Lee is much more of the ‘meat and potatoes’ sort of baritone, with an operatic, Italianate sound. The tone is a bit on the dry side. Good stage presence and he acted well, although I find him a bit ‘stagey’ – perhaps fine on the opera stage, but in a concert platform, a bit artificial. I suppose too much acting, one looks phony, while too little acting, one is accused of being wooden – it is important to find the balance. The voice is good sized, but Lipton did not hold down the orchestra for him and there were moments when the singer was covered. I am also missing “the smile in the tone”. I would have liked more variety to his tone colour. His best work was in the Pearl Fishers aria, beautifully modulated singing. Overall, a fine voice used intelligently.

Evgenia Grekova (Russia) soprano
Mozart – “Ach ich fuhl’s” from Die Zauberfloete
Verdi – “Caro nome” from Rigoletto
Glinka – Aria from Ruslan & Ludmilla
Strauss – Morgen

Looking lovely in a tight-bodiced, sequined red gown, Grekova has beautiful timbre and nice stage presence to match. The voice is well focused and produced, if the extreme top can sound a bit white. The best thing about her performance was the lovely piano singing. She luxuriated in the slow music – her voice is perfect for Gilda, complete with nice trill and an excellent sense of pitch. I was less impressed with her coloratura and in fast moving music, as in the “cabaletta” of the Glinka aria – it was not ideally clean. Her Morgen had warmth and she caressed the phrases. I would say the audience reception of her was the most enthusiastic of the four singers, and deservedly so. Overall, I would say Grekova was the evening’s winner – she looked terrific and sounded great, with an engaging personality and a carefully chosen program to accentuate her strengths. She would be my choice to be one of the six prize winners, with Dupuis my second choice among the four contestants.

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