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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase Strong, But Weak On Recital Etiquette

By Matthew Timmermans on February 5, 2018

Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto
Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto

On Saturday, February 3, 2018, the Glenn Gould School (GGS) presented its young singers in a vocal showcase. Although there were clearly some singers in need of more coaching and polish, there also was some promising talent.

A Show-Stopping Tenor

The showcase was an amalgam of art song and arias studied by the singers at the conservatoire. Adding an acute sense intimacy to the performance, after each performer walked on, he or she would explain their piece before singing it. For me, one of the evening’s highlights was the Act I duet in Gaetano Donizetti’s L’elisir D’amore sung by 3rd year PDP soprano Madeleine Worndl as Adina and 3rd year PDP tenor Zachary Rioux. Although this repertoire is a normally a challenge for young singers as demonstrated by Worndl’s bright somewhat unfocused singing and spread Italian diction, Rioux showed no such difficulties. He sang Donizetti’s long lines with beautiful operatic phrasing, Italian diction, and bright frontal resonance, reminiscent of a young Alfredo Kraus.

Many Great Sopranos

Well known for her stunning and ample lyric soprano voice, 2nd year ADP Jonelle Sills ended the first half of the program with a sensitive rendition of Hector Berlioz’s chanson “La Spectre de la Rose” from Les nuits d’été. Although her French diction could be more closed, Sills showed off her upper register’s lovely bloom. Despite some slightly lugubrious phrasing, it did not hinder the audience’s enjoyment of her beautiful portrayal.

Apparently, a new favourite aria among today’s young sopranos, Kateryna Khartova, a 1st year ADP, showed off her glorious top in the Snow Maiden’s aria from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden. Although Khartova’s Russian was beautifully pronounced, it seemed so naturally spoken that at times it descended to the realm of speech as opposed to song.

A Sneak Peek Before GGS’s Fledermaus

Announcing GGS’s upcoming production of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (March 14–16), Lynn Isnar gave us a sneak peek of her role debut as Adele by performing “Mein Herr Marquis” better known as the laughing song. Having seen Isnar perform in Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of The Widow, I was happy to see her perform another piece in which she could show off her bubbly stage presence, coloratura, and impressive upper range. Her distinctive oral resonance in addition to her musicality make her intriguing to listen to but having heard her a second time, I wonder how her distinctive voice will fare in German operetta. Thankfully we will soon find out.

To conclude the performance all the performers came out on stage to sing the Champagne Chorus also from Fledermaus. The other performers included tenor Kjel Erickson, soprano Kendra Dyck, bass Gabriel Sanchez-Ortega, soprano Mélissa Danis, soprano Militza Boljević, mezzo-soprano Rachel Miller, tenor Justin Maisonneuve, baritone Noah Grove, soprano Katelyn Bird, tenor Ross Mortimer, baritone Adam Hu, tenor Stefan Vidovic. At the end of the performance, the entire cast bowed together including the accompanists Peter Tiefenbach, Jennifer Tung, and Rachel Andrist

It is always interesting to see at a concert what the performers wear. At the showcase, the women wore in some lovely formal dresses giving the evening a professional feel. Rachel Miller sported some tastefully androgynous mezzo-soprano attire. She tied her hair back in a bun and wore a daring V-neck vest with fitted dress pants cut above the ankle to show off her high heels. The sopranos that evening seemed to think in unison, three of them wearing sequin dresses of different shades including Jonelle Sills, Kateryna Khartova, and Lynn Isnar.

Whatever Happened to Recital Etiquette?

Although the evening had a somewhat casual feel with some last-minute changes to the program that were announced as each performer explained their own piece, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of recital etiquette. Some of the performers neglected to acknowledge their accompanist and for those that did, the accompanist sometimes didn’t get up and bow. To me, this is something basic that every performer should be taught no matter what the state of their singing. Moreover, in my opinion, it would have been far more professional if the accompanists walked on an off with their singing partners even if they were playing the next set as well. I do not know if the accompanists stayed at the piano for the sake of time, but seeing as this was a learning experience for these singers it may have been better to focus more on etiquette.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Matthew Timmermans

Matthew Timmermans

Matthew Timmermans is a graduate student in musicology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He is interested in a variety of topics surrounding opera such as performing practice, age, and diva worship. In addition to writing reviews, he has had the opportunity to lecture about opera at the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Lyra, Pellegrini Opera, and McGill University, and has been invited to present his research at several conferences around the world.
Matthew Timmermans
Matthew Timmermans

Matthew Timmermans

Matthew Timmermans is a graduate student in musicology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He is interested in a variety of topics surrounding opera such as performing practice, age, and diva worship. In addition to writing reviews, he has had the opportunity to lecture about opera at the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Lyra, Pellegrini Opera, and McGill University, and has been invited to present his research at several conferences around the world.
Matthew Timmermans
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