Meeting for lunch: the COC Ensemble Studio in recital
Just like the ubiquitous sirens along University Avenue that permeate the sounds coming from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the new season of the COC's Free Concert Series begins with its annual introduction to the young artists of the Ensemble Studio.
With the help of pianists Stéphane Mayer and Rachael Kerr, the seven singers of the 2017/18 Ensemble Studio broke the ice with a single aria each, showing off their start-of-season stuff. It was a collection of picks from the standard operatic canon for this concert entitled, Meet the Ensemble Studio; safe as their choices may have been, the young singers each made strong statements about what they were bringing the rapt audience.
The returning members of the Ensemble Studio each seemed to offer to their loyal fans a snapshot of what they had been up to since the end of the 2016/17 season. Baritone Bruno Roy is settling into a fine baryton-Martin niche with Pelléas' Tower Scene from Pelléas et Mélisande, and mezzo-soprano Megan Quick seemed to love the spaciousness in "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila. Samantha Pickett reminded us of her skill in captivating an audience - and of her totally thrilling high register - with Verdi's "Non so le tetre immagini" from Il Corsaro, and Danika Lorèn's "Deh vieni, non tardar" was a polished, comfortable performance that, in Lorèn fashion, wasn't quite like anyone else's. Lauren Eberwein kicked off her first season as a soprano with a ballsy choice in "Ach, ich fühl's" from Die Zauberflöte, piquing her listeners' interest with warm new heights and familiar rich lows.
Baritone Samuel Chan made a great first impression with "Questo amor, vergogna mia" from Puccini's Edgar; his friendly, healthy sound was flexible and honest, it'll be a great thing to hear him all season long. Fellow Ensemble newcomer Simone McIntosh is a familiar voice, but it was exciting to hear new warmth and roundness paired with fiery agility in her "Una voce poco fa" from Il barbiere di Siviglia. At the piano, Mayer and Kerr both brought poise and ease; more interestingly, they each played with a distinct sound that was recognizable by the end of the short programme.
The Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre continues all season long, with vocal, chamber, piano, jazz, dance, and world music offerings. All concerts are at noon, and it's worth showing up early to grab a decent spot. Click here for details.