Soprano Gauvin earns bravos at MCO season opener
by Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press
The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra triumphantly added another star to its constellation of world-class artists as it welcomed Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin to its stage for the first time Tuesday night.
The Montreal-born artist, critically acclaimed for her interpretation of baroque opera, treated the MCO season-opener audience of 527 to a selection of Handel opera arias. They simply couldn’t get enough of the charismatic singer, and their applause grew more enthusiastic as the night wore on.
The MCO is known for introducing relatively unfamiliar artists to Winnipeg audiences; Gauvin now follows in the illustrious footsteps of pianist Marc-André Hamelin, countertenor Daniel Taylor and trumpeter Guy Few, among others.
The concert, led by Anne Manson, began with a pair of arias: Cleopatra’s sensuous V’adoro pupille, and its poignant Piangero la sorte mia from the 18th-century composer’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt). This provided the first taste of Gauvin’s crystal-clear coloratura, seamless legato phrasing and ability to project an entire rainbow of vocal colour within a single work.
She also displayed florid ornamentation during the 1724 opera seria’s Da tempeste il legno infranto, as she lightly trilled, tripped and skipped her way through the virtuosic passages with her nimble voice as agile as a gold-medal Olympic gymnast.
Gauvin’s magnificent artistry really came to the fore during the eagerly anticipated aria Ah, mio cor — regarded one of the opera repertoire’s most notoriously difficult — from Handel’s Alcina (1735). With her eyes closed and head thrust back, she instantly ushered her rapt listeners into the mysterious world of Handel’s island opera, morphing before our eyes into its sorceress protagonist Alcina.
Gauvin wrung out every ounce of emotion during her compelling performance. Her richly burnished voice, filled with compassion for the jilted Alcina, held the audience in the palm of her hand. For her surprisingly unplanned encore, Gauvin performed a reprise of Alcina’s Tor-nami a vagheggiar, ending the evening on a lighter, filigreed note.
The program also included American composer Pierre Jalbert’s Autumn Rhapsody. The one-movement string orchestra work, inspired by the turning of fall colours in Vermont, is a pleasing composition that gradually deepens in tone after its hushed opening.
The evening’s only weak link proved to be Mozart’s Divertimento in F Major, K138. Originally intended to provide musical enjoyment when composed in 1772, this particular performance felt oddly heavy-handed. An overly brusque tempo in the opening Allegro, an Andante that could — and should — have been coated in sweetness and a barrelling Presto transformed what should have been a light-hearted diversion into an unwieldy venture plagued by an overabundance of zeal.
Winnipeg Free Press, 17 September 2014
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Westminster United Church
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
4 stars out of 5