Anticipation: CMIM Aria Semifinals, part I

Anticipation: CMIM Aria Semifinals, part I

Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo in the Aria Semifinals of the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal. Photo: Tam Lan Truong Photography.

The first six semifinalists for the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal just finished singing on the stage of the Maison symphonique, backed by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under Graeme Jenkins.

For me, it was a night of lightbulb moments, realizations about these competitors. I watched last week's preliminary rounds via CMIM's live webcast, as the singers sang their programmes with piano accompaniment. Tonight, I heard the singers live, and with full orchestra; that's decidedly a different story altogether.

Singers simply sound different with an orchestra, which comes with harmonic and rhythmic tendencies much different than those of a piano. And a singer's ability to adapt to those tendencies is another layer of prowess that these semifinalists have a chance to show off.

I won't say a ton about this round - after all, it's not yet finished.

South Korean bass Jongsoo Yang gave me one of those "aha!" moments, particularly when he sang that favourite among low-voiced men, "La calunnia" from Rossini's Barber of Seville. Yang isn't brimming with comedic timing, but the voice is beautiful, from what I could hear in the brief moments of line written for Don Basilio. I found myself wishing his aria list had less barking and more legato in it (things like "Non più andrai" and Rocco from Fidelio can border on woofy); but that's a natural conundrum of the repertoire available to a bass under the age of 30.

South Korean bass Jongsoo Yang in the Aria Semifinals of the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal. Photo: Tam Lan Truong Photography.

Bulgarian tenor Mihail Mihaylov was a class act. He led the orchestra with a firm hand when Jenkins started "Una furtiva lagrima" too slowly (if you ask me, Jenkins spent a lot of the night conducting sluggishly), and the tenor showed us within a few phrases that he's got music in his blood. His throaty sound has shades of Pavarotti in it, and I thought his closer, "Di rigori armato il seno" (Der Rosenkavalier) was touching. He seemed an old soul up there, to which I hope the judges give more weight than Mihaylov's occasional clipped high note.

Bulgarian tenor Mihail Mihaylov in the Aria Semifinals of the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal. Photo: Tam Lan Truong Photography.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo earned the first honest "brava" of the night, with her solid set of Mozart, Handel, and Berg. Her "Dopo notte" was on par with anything you'd pay to hear professionally; she tore through coloratura like it was in her DNA, and dove down two octaves within one measure like it was nothing. Even if she hadn't given us the pyrotechnics, D'Angelo's voice is totally fascinating, particularly since she's just 23.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo in the Aria Semifinals of the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal. Photo: Tam Lan Truong Photography.

With the anticipation of a good cliffhanger, I'll head back to Maison symphonique tomorrow night for the remaining six semifinalists. Make sure you watch live via CMIM's webcast, starting at 7:30pm ET. And if you missed Monday's Semifinal I, catch up below:

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Written by

Jenna Simeonov

Jenna Simeonov

Jenna is the editor and co-creator of Schmopera.com. She's also a pianist, vocal coach, and répétiteur, and working with singers is how she fell in love with opera. Her favourite operas include Peter Grimes, Ariadne auf Naxos, Tristan und Isolde, Written on Skin, and Anna Nicole.

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