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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 2

By Joseph So May 30, 2007

Well, if Day One was the appetizer, tonight was definitely the main course! At least two of the contestants tonight could go “all the way”, as they say. Finally I felt I heard what I came to hear – superlative singing. When it was announced last week that there were seven Canadians among the twelve finalists, there were some raised eyebrows. I feel that tonight, certainly all three Canadians acquitted themselves wonderfully well and deserve to be in the finals. An interesting observation – I had been listening to the semi-finals all last week on the Internet in Toronto, but tonight, it showed me that there is no substitution for the real thing. You have to be in the theatre in person to get a true idea as to what a voice sounds like “live”. And the tiny picture on your computer screen just doesn’t tell the whole story – it doesn’t give you all the intangibles that come together to make a winner. The problem with the orchestra abated somewhat this evening. While there were no glaring problems, it was obvious that the orchestra was woefully under-rehearsed. The amount of music for the orchestra to learn is staggering and a run through on the day of performance is simply insufficient to get the desired results.

Susanne Ellen Kirchesch, soprano (Germany)
Bach –“Zerfliesse, mein Herze” – Johnnes passion
Mozart – “Deh vieni, non tardar” – Le nozze di Figaro
Rossini – “Una voce poco fa” – Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Gounod – “Jewel Song” – Faust

When I heard her on the internet stream last week, I was very impressed – fairly big voice, good middle, nice timbre, decent coloratura. Tonight, my enthusiasm was more tempered. The voice didn’t sound so rock solid, the tone occasionally unsteady and the pitch approximate. I also noticed that she was short of breath in the Bach. Susanna’s “Deh vieni” went infinitely better – her best singing of the evening. She’s got the right instincts for this aria. Her stage persona, while pleasant, was curiously understated. Her Una voce poco fa was in mezzo key (to my ears anyway) with extra embellishments. Given the size of the voice, her coloratura was admirable. The top was good, but she was careful and didn’t linger there for very long. The Jewel Song suffered from a lack of a trill – to me this is a serious blemish. Singers who can’t trill shouldn’t attempt this. Overall, I came away a little disappointed – a well schooled voice and an intelligent singer, but she didn’t wow me as I had expected.

Marianne Fiset, soprano (Canada)
Dvo?ák “Song to the Moon” – Rusalka
Mozart – “Dove sono” – Le nozze di Figaro
Puccini – “Addio, senza rancor” – La bohème
Rachmaninoff – Nié poï krasavitsa pri mnié

When I heard Fiset sang the Bolero from Vespri on the internet last week, I thought she didn’t have the spinto weight to her sound for this extremely taxing aria. I thought she was a very good singer but not extraordinary. Boy, did she surprise me tonight in the theatre. She was extremely impressive, singing an extremely well chosen program. Judging by the audience reaction, she blew everyone away. She possesses a big lirico-spinto sound with truly lovely tone. It is also under near-perfect control, with a whole range of dynamic shading, from lovely pianissimo to powerful forte – without the harshness that invades some voices. This is the voice that makes one sit up and take notice. Rusalka was a great start – lovely, poised singing. Her “Dove sono” showed a true Countess voice – beautifully dark-hued sound, with all the technical control one could want. She sang the repeats differently – varying the dynamics, as it should be. She sang the opening of the repeats in one breath, as it should be. It was one of the best Dove sonos I have heard in recent years. Her “Donde lieta” showed off her lovely and warm middle. I wished she had a bit more Tebaldi-like portamento, but the judges probably would have hated that. The Rachmaninoff song allowed her to “let it rip” with all the requisite drama, but without compromising beauty of tone. Not too many singers can do that – the end result was a huge ovation. Incidentally, her dress alone would have won her an award for the most daring décolletage – she didn’t need it, she sang divinely!

Peter Barrett, baritone (Canada)
Mozart – “Ein Mädchen, oder weibchen” – Die Zauberfloete
Mahler – “Um Mitternacht” – Rückertlieder
Korngold – “Mein Sehnen, mein Wahnen” – Die Tote Stadt
Rossini – “Largo al factotum” – Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Barrett’s career has been Toronto-based the last few years and I got to know his voice well. I love his rich, robust, smooth sound, his innate musicality, and his powerful stage presence, qualities that with time will propel him to the next level. Tonight, he lived up to his potential. His Papageno is a known quantity, having sung it at the COC. He delivered “Ein Mädchen, oder weibchen” as if he had done it a thousand times before. His Mahler was rather extroverted, but if any of the Rückert lieder lends itself to an operatic treatment, it would be “Um Mitternacht”. His best singing, predictably, was Fritz’s aria, “Mein Sehnen, mein Wahnen”. His smooth baritone and wonderful mezza voce is tailor-made for this aria. His last selection was “Largo al factotum”. Like the Tote Stadt aria, his voice is perfect in this aria. It fits him like a glove, and he gave an admirably assured performance. There were just a couple of very minor glitches in the high notes, but overall it was an extremely strong performance. The ovation at the end was predictably big.

Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano (Canada)
Handel – “Se pietà di me non senti” – Giulio Cesare
Rachmaninoff - Nié poï krasavitsa pri mnié
Floyd – “Ain’t it a pretty night” – Susannah
Massenet – Gavotte – Manon

Bradley’s voice was unfamiliar to me before tonight, as I missed her semi-final performance. She is a stylish singer, well schooled, with a lovely, cool sound, smooth, with a good sense of pitch. It is evenly produced, and occasionally, as in the Carlisle Floyd piece tonight, it even recalled a young Renée Fleming. Her Handel was quite lovely, considering its length and the difficulty of holding the audience’s attention. Interestingly, we had two singers doing the same song in one evening, the Rachmaninoff. Bradley acquitted herself very well, perhaps without quite the distinction of Fiset. I would have liked more power and a fuller range of colours. I liked her Susannah aria a lot, her strongest piece on the program, but I found her English hard to understand. Her Manon aria was beautifully sung, but for some strange reason, it didn’t end with a big flourish as the final aria in a program should.

So there you have it – a strong quartet of finalists. I think Marianne Fiset won hands down this evening with her stunning performance, the kind that makes one attend competitions year after year. Peter Barrett deserved to be right up there with the best. I would definitely put my money on these two singers to be among the six prize winners.

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