Classic 107 reviews Gauvin concert

Classic 107 freelance writer Sara Krahn reviews the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra’s season opener featuring Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin

Bring on the new season…

The transition from summer into the fall season can be a relatively emotional period, especially for those of us living in the city of Winter, I mean, Winnipeg. In addition to our struggles against sinus colds and preparations for a year of much fulfillment (aka an extremely overstuffed day planner), we have to think about putting plastic on the windows and whether or not this will be the year to winter cycle.

Last night offered the perfect reprieve from all this transitional angst in the form of our Manitoba Chamber Orchestra’s season opener. Performing at the Westminster United Church, the MCO kicked off their new concert series in tribute to both the changing climate and soprano Karina Gauvin — one of Canada’s leading lady’s in baroque opera. Internationally renowned for her work on Handel’s Italian solo operas, Gauvin had no trouble resonating with her Winnipeg audience through the tenuous and emotional sweeps of baroque aria.

Performing from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto and Alcina, Gauvin played the roles of an Egyptian queen and a sorceress, both powerful women undergoing a significant change. The audience had the privilege of witnessing Gauvin use her voice in a variety of ways, spanning the operatic emotional alphabet — from love-lorn, to grief-stricken to vengeful. Here is a soprano who truly knows her instrument, exhibiting a prowess for vocal storytelling that doesn’t demand overt gestures and doe-y, glittering eyes (although as the complete package, Gauvin has those too, of course).

There is little to question over the hype surrounding such artists as Gauvin in the successful performance of Handel’s music. Her musical feat last night ultimately begged listeners to ask: Is there anything more relentlessly captivating than a Handel aria, moving in its entire refined splendor? Gauvin has the extraordinary vocal capacity to highlight those intricate emotions in Handel, balancing both candid and controlled vocal technique in order to show off the best and most difficult operatic arias from the Baroque era’s dramatic collection.

The evening’s concert also featured the MCO performing a truly cinematic piece written for string orchestra, by contemporary composer Pierre Jalbert, as well as Mozart’s Divertimento in F Major (K138). Jalbert’s Autumn Rhapsody featured a chilly intensity, while the Mozart selection was entertaining in its upbeat restlessness. Although the evening’s selection of repertoire was not one of notable musical warmth, there was a wonderfully cathartic experience to be had in the program’s reflection of certain seasonal sentiments. The performances and musical selections appealed to a high-class melodrama that gripped its audience with bold changes in colour and tone — moving us through emotional spells of joy, rage and sadness.

In his program notes, Jalbert characterizes a passage from his Autumn Rhapsody using the line, “the wind begins to blow colder than summer.” Indeed, this is a line that will resonate with most of us here in the windy city over the next few months. However, if the MCO’s upcoming concerts are as satisfying as their opener, who really cares about the cold; I, for one, am looking forward to this season.

Sara Krahn is a music student at the Canadian Mennonite University here in Winnipeg. She is also a freelance writer and a budding freelance broadcaster.