La Scena Musicale

Monday, 2 January 2012

Festive Bravissimo Brings 2011 to a Rousing Finish



The 2100 edition of Bravissimo ends with an encore of "Libiamo, libiamo" from La traviata (l. to r. mezzo Wallis Giunta, baritone Aris Argiris, soprano Chiara Taigi, tenor David Pomeroy, soprano Sabina Cvilak) Photo: Joseph So






Bravissimo! Opera's Greatest Hits
Roy Thomson Hall,
Saturday Dec. 31, 2011, 7 p.m.

Sabina Cvilak, sop. (Slovenia)
Chiara Taigi, sop. (Italy)
Wallis Giunta, mezzo (Canada)
David Pomeroy, ten. (Canada)
Aris Argiris, bar. (Greece)
Rick Phillips, MC
Opera Canada Symphony
Bruno Aprea, cond. (Italy)

Since impresario Attila Glatz brought his New Year's Eve/New Year's Day concerts to Toronto, the Dec. 31 edition of Bravissimo! Opera's Greatest Hits has become something of a tradition. The start time was 7 p.m., allowing plenty of time for dinner afterwards. A healthy-sized crowd turned out for an enjoyable evening of operatic selections, on this occasion sung by five singers with established international careers. The two Canadians - Wallis Giunta and David Pomeroy - are well known, but the other three are new to Toronto. It was unfortunate that the originally announced Argentinean soprano Virginia Tola was a no-show, but we got to hear her replacement, Italian soprano Chiara Taigi. Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak and Greek baritone Aris Argiris were also making their Toronto debuts.

Italian maestro Bruno Aprea, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Palm Beach Opera opened the proceedings with the overture from Rossini's La cenerentola. The first voice of the evening belonged to Aris Argiris, who sang the Count's aria from Nozze di Figaro with ample expression and firm tone. Later in the evening, he brought authority to "Cruda funesta smania" from Lucia di Lammermoor, and teamed up with tenor David Pomeroy for an impressive Carlo-Rodrigo duet from Don Carlo.

Of the two Canadians in the show, I was particularly curious to hear mezzo Wallis Giunta, a former member of the COC Ensemble Studio. She is at the beginning of an international career - and one can see why, given her gleaming high mezzo, supermodel looks and strong stage presence. Her "Una voce poco fa" this evening was sparkling, with added ornamentations that showed off her agility. In the Flower Duet from Lakme, her tone and that of Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak's blended quite exquisitely - it was a highlight of the evening, as was her Seguidilla from Carmen. The other Canadian was of course tenor David Pomeroy, who has sung roles such as Faust, Pinkerton, and (upcoming) Hoffmann at the COC to audience acclaim. His bright lyric sound with its facility at the top was heard to advantage, particularly in "Nessun dorma" from Turandot - is there a more surefire crowd-pleaser than this aria? - and as the Duke in Rigoletto.

For me, the revelation of the evening was Slovenian Sabina Cvilak. She possesses an exceptionally beautiful, full lyric soprano with an extraordinary high piano that shimmers and hangs in the air. Cvilak was at her best in the Mirror aria from Thais, and in "Un bel di." Her singing "Adieu, notre petite table" was also lovely, but there was an unfortunate error in the recitativo, where the singer and the orchestra were miles apart in the passage leading up to the high B - a mistake that should not have happened. To be honest, there were quite a number of rough patches, such as the error made by the flute solo that opened "Casta diva." The problems were mostly in the second half as if they ran out of rehearsal time, not an unusual situation in these one-off events. But the audience seemed not to have noticed and the artists were well applauded.

The official part of the program ended with the Quartet from Rigoletto, where Wallis Giunta stole the show as a Carmen-like Maddalena. The audience was treated to an encore, the obligatory "Libiamo, libiamo" from La traviata. Repeated ovations brought them back for a round of Auld Lang Syne, with the audience joining in lustily at the end.


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