By Wah Keung Chan
Photo: Antoine Saito
Let’s get the suspense out of the way. South Korean soprano Hyesang Park
took the Day 1 Finals of the 2015 Montreal International Musical Competition (MIMC).
From the first notes of her opening aria “Je veux vire dans ce reve” from
Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, we knew her voice would soar above the orchestra,
and it unfolded as expected, with a spontaneous final standing ovation after her
Park’s programme was perfectly planned, concluding with the mad scene
from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. The repertoire in between, a Mozart
concert aria, Dupac's Chanson triste and Rachmaninov's Ne py krasavitsa, pri
mne, seemed just like filler, as her diction was not always the best. Park has a
clear and well projected voice capable of a wide dynamic range. What sets her
apart is her ability to use her instrument at the service of story-telling, and
she accomplished that with musicality, and nuanced facial and body expression.
Technically, she sings with an innate legato and she is capable of effortless
swelling tones. The long mad scene from Lucia is a risky way to end a
competition programme and Park carried it off almost effortlessly (9 out of 10
on the high notes). It was the perfect end to the evening, leaving
the audience smiling home.
However, the conclusion wasn’t so clear at the start for audiences
following the competition from the quarter and the semifinals. Some favourites
in the smaller Bourgie Hall (444 seats) didn’t transfer well to the larger
symphonic size Maison symphonique (2000 seats), as was the case for the first
two finalists on Day 1.
French soprano Anais Constans exhibited a coloratura soprano with a
nice legato. It just seemed a bit light; in Bourgie Hall, her voice sounded
bigger. Her show piece “Caro nome” from Verdi’s Rigoletto was taken rather too
slow and consequently, it seems more like a vocalise, void of rapture. As I
mentioned, she has nice control and a good legato, but the moments I was
anticipating a forte or fortissimo were not met.
Macedonia baritone Vasil Garvanliev captivated the semifinals with an
entertaining recital full of vocal variety and dramatic flair. I had found his
voice grainy and he tended to croon; by this I meant that his voice lacked a
core, it seems all overtones with a missing fundamental sound. I worried that
this would limit his ability to communicate in the big hall, and I was proven right.
His aria from Handel’s Rinaldo didn’t make much of an impression over the
orchestra, and the famous aria “Kogda” from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin left us
wanting for a bigger, clearer voice (where is Dmitri Hvorostovsky when you need
him). Garvanliev’s drama showed in Ravel’s cycle Don Quichotte a Dulcinee, but
the serenade “Deh vieni alla finestra” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni lacked seduction as it sounded muted.
Mahler’s Rucket Lieder seemed like an odd choice to end his performance,
but it actually helped his cause. I give Garvanliev a B for “Ich atmet’ einen
linden Duft” because he performed it so restrained; it’s supposed to be a serenade and he sang it like a lullaby. Between “Blicke mir nicht in die
Lieder” and “Liebst du um Schonheit,” a true musician finally came through, and
suddenly a more solid forward sounding voice was heard.
It then suddenly came to me that maybe Garvanliev was not a baritone
after all. In the 2002 inaugural MIMC, then baritone Joseph Kaiser sang a high
note that rang out, and I told him afterward that he could be a tenor. I guess
enough people told him that, as in just two years, he re-emerged as a
lyrique tenor winning competitions and making it to stage at the Met. Last
night, I heard something similar from the Macedonian. He sang a moving “Ich bin
der Welt abhanden gekommen”, but what amused me most was the effortless high F
at the end. The closing “Um mittenacht” was forceful. So I’ll put it out there
and go on the record: Vasil Garvanliev is a tenor.
The competition concludes tonight with three more competitors: South
Korean tenor Keewoon Kim, Japanese baritone Takaoki Onishi and Canadian soprano
France Bellemare, whose semifinal perforamnce of Dvorak's Song to the Moon
reminded me of Canadian Marianne Fiset who won the 2007 MIMC.
The winners' Gala will take place on June 5 at 7:30 PM at Montreal's Maison Symphonique.
Labels: CMIM 2015, Concert_Review, MIMC 2015