Friday, 12 November 2010

STELLA MARIS -- Round 2 (song & oratorio)

A quick update ... 
At the end of Round 1, the JURY VOTES stood as follows:
1.     Daniela Mack (mezzo)
2.     Michael Müller (tenor)
3.     John Chest (baritone) + Anita Watson (soprano)
And the status on the AUDIENCE VOTES was:
1.     Anita Watson
2.     John Chest
3.     Adam Luther (tenor)

By the end of Round 2, this was how things stood:
1.     Daniela Mack
2.     John Chest
3.     Anna Victorova (mezzo)
1.     John Chest
2.     Daniela Mack
3.     Claudia Galli (soprano)

So, two new entries from the singers who had been ill for the first round and who were given the chance to present their Round 1 opera arias ahead of the evening’s official business for Round 2 – oratorio and song.

Anna Victorova, the nominee from La Scala, is a mezzo in the grand Russian style, with the ability to impress at both ends of the register. The climactic top note in ‘Voce di donna’ from La Gioconda was spectacular, but voice and interpretation were more persuasively integrated in Victorova’s second aria, as she buttonholed us imposingly with ‘Sily potainye’ from Khovanschina.

Claudia Galli (Opéra de Paris) launched a delicious charm offensive with ‘Quel guardo di cavaliere’ from Don Pasquale, then followed it with a poignant ‘Ebben? Ne andró lontano’ from La Wally. Her voice, while too densely coloured to be soubrettish, is still on the light side for the latter aria, but it possesses a plaintive beauty around the top of the stave.

Both Victorova and Galli made a greater impact with their operatic offerings than they did in oratorio and song, and the same applied to Anita Watson, whose Weber and Dvořák had made her the audience favourite after Round 1. Fauré’s ‘Mandoline’ was delightful (again showcasing her superb diction), but the showy trumpeting of Handel’s ‘Let the bright Seraphim’ maybe demands a more extrovert timbre than Watson’s, which has a naturally mellow quality.

Daniela Mack’s long-breathed outpouring of Schumann’s ‘Widmung’ oozed impulsive passion and her ‘Laudamus te’ from Mozart’s C minor Mass was vivid and virtuosic, though, as a number written for soprano, it deprived us of the singer’s enticing darker timbres.

The first of the men to sing in the second round was Michael Laurenz Müller, whose slightly quirky (but fascinating) style was apt for Purcell’s ‘I’ll sail upon the Dog Star’. If his timbre lacks the martial squillo for the ‘Cuius animam’ from Rossini’s Stabat mater, he compensated with subtle use of dynamics – sometimes reducing the tone to a whisper – and acute word-painting.

In Beethoven’s ‘Adelaide’ and ‘Then shall the righteous shine’ from Elijah Adam Luther was – a little surprisingly – at moments reminiscent of the most celebrated Canadian tenor of them all, Jon Vickers. Luther is still very much a lyric rather than any kind of budding heldentenor, yet the Germanic repertoire seems to suit him, and an innate dramatic tension in his tone and style somehow evoked his great compatriot.

Darker drama was to the fore in the song choices of both John Chest and Chris Lysack. Chest’s Auf dem Flusse from Winterreise (a cycle he has already sung) proved spine-tingling, with deeply concentrated tone and consummate use of tone colours, while Lysack’s rendition of Fauré’s ‘Prison’ captured all the poet’s agonised regrets. Another number from Elijah, ‘Lord God of Abraham’ saw Chest in noble, full-toned form, while Lysack rose to the closely packed series of challenges posed by the ‘Ingemisco’ from the Verdi Requiem, confidently claiming a place at God’s right hand.

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