Fast on the heels of the 2023-24 COC Ensemble Studio noon-hour concert last week, the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre once again resounded with song last Wednesday. This time, it featured sixteen beautiful and youthful voices from the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. The program of eight pieces was appropriately entitled Mostly Mozart – seven scenes from Idomeneo, La clemenza di Tito, Die Zauberflöte, Cosi fan tutte, Don Giovanni, and Le nozze di Figaro, plus a single contemporary work, from John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (1991).
The young artists were Ana Isabella Castro, Lissy Meyerowitz, Aemilia Moser, Alex Sorensen, Jordana Goddard, Chihiro Yasufuku, Kcenia Koutorjevski, Teresa Tucci, Nathania-Rose Chan, Ellita Gagner, Cameron Mazzei, Dante Mullin-Santone, Lyndon Ladeur, George Theodorakopoulos, Carlo Cormier, and Ben Wallace. They are all students of the Opera Program, at varying stages of their vocal journey. Some of the voices are still work in progress, while others are nearly ready to join a young artist program. What they do share are excellent potential, solid training, and the desire to communicate.
The singers were ably supported by pianists Christine Bae and Spencer Kryzanowski. I have heard their excellent playing in masterclasses – they are not so much accompanists but collaborative pianists, offering solid support, offering appropriate guidance while melding with the vocalists seamlessly. Opera recitals can sometimes be rather staid, stand-and-sing affairs – but not this one! Kudos to director Mabel Wonnecott for her ingenious staging, using both levels of the RBA, including the stairs for entries and exits.
The sixteen singers showed plenty of enthusiasm and confidence, with no trace of self-consciousness, only the joy of music-making. The programming wisely stayed away from solo arias in favour of duets, trios and full ensembles with lots of physicality. I loved the funny scene from Die Zauberflöte involving Tamino, Papageno and the Three Ladies, well rehearsed, with excellent musical precision. Two lovely duets, “Ah! Perdona al primo,” a duet with Servilia (Teresa Tucci) and Annio (Nathania-Rose Chan). The other was the famous “La ci darem la mano” with Don Giovanni (George Theodorakopoulos) and Zerlina (Ana Isabella Castro).
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ghosts of Versailles, which was made famous at the Met in the early ’90s, back at a time when contemporary operas were extremely rare in that opera house. I find the music tonal and accessible, with a beautiful melody. Naysayers would call it musically retrograde – chacun à son goût. The concert ended with a scintillating Finale from Le nozze di Figaro, beautifully sung and acted with great enthusiasm. Very nice voices, particularly that of the soprano who sang Contessa.
There you have it, the 2023-24 edition of U of T young artists of the opera program. Kudos to Sandra Horst for conducting sitting down, keeping the action moving while not impeding the sightlines. The eight pieces made for a short but satisfying noon-hour concert. The very receptive audience gave the artists a rousing ovation. I look forward to hearing these beautiful voices in the coming months. Bravi tutti!
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