Tour review: Bayrakdarian shimmers …

by Richard Todd, Ottawa Citizen, 10 July 2013

Music and Beyond
Dominion-Chalmers Church, Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra; Anne Manson, conductor; Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano

OTTAWA — Isabel Bayrakdarian is one of Canada’s most esteemed sopranos, and the esteem doesn’t stop at our borders. She has performed far and wide and was even featured in the sound track to The Lord of the Rings. More recently she sang the starring role of Blanche in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites. In fact, she has sung in almost every important musical centre in the world.

Her appearance Wednseday evening was one of the highlights of Music and Beyond’s Festival 2013. The audience wasn’t too impressive, though. Dominion-Chalmers was scarcely half full. One reason for that may have been that the repertoire was fairly esoteric, a bonus for those who were there, but a disincentive to those who might have preferred the Encounter with Nature concert offered at the Canadian Museum of Nature at the same time. And then this was the second performance of the program that these same musicians gave Tuesday afternoon at St. Andrew’s.

The program opened with Phillip Glass’s Symphony No. 3, a reasonably engaging work that reflects some evolution from the simplistic formulae that characterized his music in the early days.

But the evening really belonged to Bayrakdarian, the satin beauty, whose voice carried all before it. No, that doesn’t say it all: Her voice is one of the most engaging and congenial in the world today.

Her first offering, Ravel’s Kaddisch, demonstrated, to this listener at least, that no matter how happy a memory you may cherish of a singer of Bayrakdarian’s quality, memory can’t compare to the experience of hearing her live.

Next she offered two gorgeous songs by the 18th-century Armenian minstrel Sayat Nova, but the real highlight of the evening was a set of songs by Serouj Kradjian to texts by the 13th-century female troubadour, Ysabelle. They are in Arabic, Hebrew, Occitan and English. Although the music has a certain eastern Mediterranean flavour, it is also vigorously contemporary. Bayrakdarian, conductor Anne Manson and the orchestra delivered a passionate and irresistible account of the score.