Lovely lunches: the COC Ensemble Studio in recitalReview
Tuesday’s lunchtime recital in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre featured four members of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, performing two dense sets of songs; the bigger picture seemed a really personal glance at mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein, soprano Danika Lorèn, and pianists Hyejin Kwon and Stéphane Mayer.
Eberwein and Kwon gave us the eight songs of Schumann’s cycle Frauenliebe und -leben, Op. 42, a set which often seems like a feminine response to his Dichterliebe. Eberwein seemed to waver between delivering something personal, and embodying an every-woman of sorts, shining light upon what’s universal about the woman in the poems by Adelbert von Chamisso.
She sang with a clear youth in her sound, her wide eyes and big smile totally inviting; beside her, Kwon played with a mature transparency that keeps Schumann’s piano parts layered and interesting. Eberwein’s love for these texts was hard to miss; though there were moments where she seemed not to trust the music to tell the full story, her Frauenliebe und -leben was something quite honest, with her style written all over it.
In a refreshing change of sound, Lorèn and Mayer gave us Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées. Lorèn sang with an impressive, warm legato, and the fresh acoustic of the RBA let us hear signs of lyricism and dramaticism in her future seasons. Mayer played with that crystalline French sound, and with a flexibility to keep him human and text-driven. The young pair had striking poise, and both seemed to take risks that are hard to pull off in such an exposed performance space.
On top of their work on the Canadian Opera Company’s mainstage, the Free Concert Series in the RBA is a great way to hear the young artists of the Ensemble Studio, unencumbered and up close. Later this week, the COC Ensemble is joined by artists of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal; in May, you can catch the members of the Ensemble Studio in solo recitals on May 10 and 11, the Canadian Art Song Project’s world premiere of Ana Sokolovic’s Dawn Always Begins in the Bones, on May 17, and in a Les Adieux concert on May 18. For the full season line-up, click here.