La Scena Musicale

Friday, 23 May 2008

Queen Elisabeth Singing Competition Finals Day 2

Georg Friedrich HAENDEL Comfort ye my people – Ev’ry valley shall be exalted [MESSIAH]
Sergey RACHMANINOV Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne (Sing not to me, beautiful maiden) [6 SONGS OP.4PUSHKIN]
Joseph HAYDN Gefesselt steht der breite See – Hier steht der Wand’rer nun [LUCAS – DIE JAHRESZEITEN]

This evening we had the second tenor in the finals, the Belorussian Yury Haradzetski. He has a bright, good-sized, well focused voice, with a forward vocal placement, and an individual timbre that is perhaps not the most beautiful in the competition. His stage demeanor is a bit stiff, his height makes him look a little awkward. I wasn't terribly impressed by him in the semi-finals when he seemed to push his voice. But all that was in the past. Tonight I was very pleasantly surprised by his performance. He sang with technical security, sensitivity and musicality, with plenty of chiaroscuro. He opened with the extremely familiar "Ev'ry valley", sung in quite good English for a non-native speaker. He was completely in his element in the Rachmaninoff song, another very familiar piece.He did some lovely mezza voce to end the piece. If I were to nitpick, I would not have chosen the aria from The Seasons - singing two oratorio pieces out of four is a bit much, especially ending up singing only one opera aria. But what a piece of singing he did in the aria! For four minutes, his Lensky's aria was a tour de force, and definitely superior to Brickner's yesterday. Those were real tears at the end of "Kuda, kuda" - let's face it, how often do we have a singer, in the high pressure situation of a competition, capable of feeling so deeply about a piece of music? And he sang it beautifully. Very impressive indeed. No wonder Michele Losier, waiting to come on, greeted him with bravos. To him I also say "Bravo"!

Michèle LOSIERMaurice RAVEL Asie – La flûte enchantée [SHÉHÉRAZADE – KLINGSOR]
Gustav MAHLER Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht – Ging heut morgen übers Feld [LIEDER EINES FAHRENDEN GESELLEN]

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Parto, parto, ma tu ben mio [SESTO – LA CLEMENZA DI TITO]

Pundits consider Losier a good bet to be placed highly, and for good reason. Hers is an exceptional voice, coupled with fine musical intelligence and uncommon refinement. She looked very beautiful in a blue gown with an interesting ruffled collar, and perfectly coiffed hair. Her opening arias, Asie and La flute enchantee from Sheherazade were exquisitely sung, her gleaming mezzo never sounded better. The voice was free, with plenty of dynamic variation, and she was totally engaged in the music, telling a story so vividly that she had the audience spellbound. The music built to a shattering climax in Asie and she was able to ride it perfectly. It was a superlative performance, definitely a highlight of the competition. It was hard to surpass the Ravel, and her Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen was well sung but I found her vibrato a bit intrusive. I would have liked a bit more inward feeling, more introspection. Her acting here was just a bit too operatic, too coy. What worked in Sheherazade didn't work so well here. Her last piece was Sesto's great aria, Parto, parto, a real staple in any mezzo's repertoire. This piece suits her like a glove, and she did not disappoint, holding the audience's attention through this very long aria. Her runs in the allegro section was perfectly executed, ending the aria with a flourish. Her performance tonight was the strongest in the finals so far. In my book, Losier should land in the winners circle.

Anna KASYANWolfgang Amadeus MOZART Exsultate [EXSULTATE, JUBILATE KV 165]
Georg Friedrich HAENDEL Dunque i lacci d’un volto – Ah! Crudel [ARMIDA – RINALDO]
Gaetano DONIZETTI Tranquillo ei posa – Come è bello [LUCREZIA – LUCREZIA BORGIA]
Georges BIZET Me voilà seule dans la nuit – Comme autrefois [LEÏLA – LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES]
I remember Ms. Kasyan well. She came 4th at the Montreal competition three years ago. Since then, she has gone on to place highly in quite a few competitions, including the new Renata Tebaldi Competition in San Marino last year. She has updated her look, coming out in a tight fitting sequined black gown, a huge improvement over the quaint (ie., folksy), floral gown she wore in Montreal. She chose what was arguably the most difficult and certainly the most wide-ranging and ambitious program of any in the competition. Six pieces - a Mozart motet, a baroque aria, a bel canto aria, something Russian, something French, and ending in the last of the Vier letzte lieder - that is what I call a jam-packed program! She opened with Exsultate, Jubilate - well sung enough, although her timbre with its ripe vibrato is not ideal in this music. In my mind, she should have chosen Alleluja rather than the opening aria - she certainly has the coloratura to do it justice. Next up was the aria from Armida. The cantilena section was beautiful, but her fortissimo didn't have the same quality as her lovely soft singing. Her rapid-fire coloratura - nobody else could do it as well or as fast in this competition - was shown to advantage here. The Lucrezia Borgia aria was also lovely and she got a big ovation. Six pieces of very diverse styles - Kasyan delivered vocally, if not always stylistically. Still it was an impressive showing. Her Im Abendrot form VLL was for me the least successful - it was turned into too much of a 'show piece', without sufficient inner feeling. I felt she didn't really communicate the deeper meaning of this most spiritual of the four last songs.

There you have it, three very strong candidates, but I have to give the nod to Michele Losier, with Anna Kasyan a close second. I think both of them will place in the final six. But I wouldn't be surprised if all three end up on the podium, since good tenors are always in short supply. My money however is on the two women. The audio and video files are archived so you can judge for yourself by going to

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