Ottawa Choral Society Announces 2012 Winners of the
New Discoveries Auditions
Soprano Jacqueline Woodley, mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb, tenor Isaiah Bell, and baritone Geoffrey Sirett take home Grand Prize Honours
The Ottawa Choral Society’s (OCS) New Discoveries Auditions for Young Artists were held recently in Toronto and Montreal and attracted a roster of 61 gifted young artists on the threshold of exciting careers who competed for OCS Emerging Artists Awards of $1000 and professional engagements with the Ottawa Choral Society and the choirs of this year’s Jury members. Winners are also featured in a gala Winners Showcase Recital, sponsored by the OCS’s Marian Pickering Memorial Fund, in solo repertoire before invited guests and prominent arts presenters in the National Capital Region.
The biennial auditions are an initiative developed in the early 1990’s by the Choral Society to support emerging artists and introduce exciting new talents to Ottawa audiences. Candidates, 30 or under and Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, typically hold music degrees and are interns or graduates of opera training programmes and advanced students who are being coached by Canada’s most eminent voice teachers.
We are proud to introduce the 2012 Grand Prize Winners of the
OCS New Discoveries Auditions for Young Artists
Jacqueline Woodley, soprano
Twenty-seven year old Canadian soprano Jacqueline Woodley’s luminous performance of Debussy’s Apparition was mesmerizing and her emotionally compelling interpretation of “Zerfleisse, mein herze” from Bach’s St. John Passion showed her to be an artist who completely inhabits her text.
A member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble, Jacqueline recently shared a stage with Metropolitan Opera stars Susan Graham and Russell Braun in Iphigénie en Tauride. As a concert artist, Ms. Woodley‘s repertoire includes Bach’s St. John Passion, Handel’s Messiah, Fauré’s Requiem, Mozart’s Vesperae confessore di solennes, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem. She has appeared on the summer festival circuit and is becoming recognized as a fine interpreter of contemporary music.
Rihab Chaieb, mezzo-soprano
To open her programme, 25-year-old Tunisian-born mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb performed Debussy’s “Le tombeau des Niädes” with exquisite expressiveness and tonal beauty. She followed this with Juno's imperative aria “Hence, Iris hence away” from Semele, which showcased her dramatic talent, and lovely, agile coloratura.
Currently a member of the Ensemble Studio at the Canadian Opera Company, she has sung Tisbe in La Cenerentola, Second Secretary to Mao in Nixon in China, the Third Lady in the Ensemble Studio performance of The Magic Flute, and the French Mother in Death in Venice.
Also at home in oratorio and art song, Ms. Chaieb's concert repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat, and Brahms’ Neue Liebeslieder. Upcoming engagements include La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi and Juno/Ino in the COC Ensemble’s Semele this spring as well as the title role in La tragédie de Carmen at the Highlands Opera Studio this summer.
Isaiah Bell, tenor
Sporting a paddy green shirt and a natty bow tie, Isaiah Bell signaled that he is a young artist who is not afraid to make a statement. And that he did, with a commanding opening statement that blossomed into an intimate sound painting from Violet Archer’s gorgeous ‘Miniatures from the Chinese’. His aria from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion showed a depth of passion that is remarkable in one just twenty-six years old.
In critical notices, Isaiah has been identified as an exceptional young Canadian tenor “set to emerge on the world market”, with a talent for characterizations that are “…chilling in their fervency and clarity” (Opera Magazine).
This year, Isaiah returns to the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for L’enfance
du Christ with Kent Nagano and makes debuts with l’Orchestre Métropolitain under Yannick Nézet-Séguin; Saskatoon Opera; Julian Wachner at Trinity Wall Street New York; Jeunesses Musicales Canada; and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under Ivars Taurens.
Geoffrey Sirett, baritone
Twenty-seven years old, this fine young baritone, who bears an impressive stage dignity, opened with “Why do the nations” from Handel’s Messiah singing with a resonance and complex, coloured sound that was thrilling. His “Mache dich” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, was well chosen to reveal a nobility of expression. The jury loved this voice and asked Geoffrey to sing all three of his selections - the last, from Derek Holman’s The Centered Passion in which he floated a gorgeous pianissimo high in his register.
A recipient of many honours, Geoffrey has performed numerous leading roles on the opera stage and will return this summer to the Aspen Opera Theater Center to sing the role of Nick Carraway in John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.
A three-time regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Geoffrey was awarded second place and the ‘Best Performance of a Canadian Work Award’ in the Montreal Symphony’s Standard Life Competition in 2011. He has partnered in recital with world-renowned accompanist Martin Katz. His debut album, Vagabond, featuring English and Canadian art song, was released in December 2011.
The Jury also commended four Honourable Mentions for their accomplished performances and promise
Claire de Sévigné, soprano
Whispered notes high in the stratosphere from this young soprano were enough to make one swoon. Twenty-four year old Claire de Sévigné has performed title roles in opera and has participated in several acclaimed training programmes. In 2012, she was the winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the Boston District and the recipient of the Encouragement Award at the Regional Finals. Claire joins the COC’s Young Artist Ensemble in 2012-13.
Jana Miller, soprano
Twenty-five year old soprano, Jana Miller’s interpretation of Debussy’s ‘Apparition’ showed a crystalline purity of sound and a lovely expressiveness. Her “Rejoice” from Messiah was beautifully phrased, effervescent and delightfully joyful. In 2011, Jana won prizes in the Eckhardt-Grammaté Contemporary Music Competition, the Hélène Roberge Music Competition, the Brian Law Opera Competition and the Prix d’Europe Competition. Miss Miller performs and tours with countertenor Daniel Taylor’s Theatre of Early Music where she has been a featured soloist.
Lucas van Lierop, tenor
This 23-year-old tenor began his audition with a passionate delivery of “If with all your hearts” from Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and followed that with exquisite performances of songs by Schumann and Ned Rorem that demonstrated the range this very young singer commands. Lucas made his operatic debut at the age of 13 in Britten’s Curlew River and since then has performed across Canada with major symphony orchestras and opera stages. He is currently workshopping a new opera and will sing Valetto in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione
Poppea and in concert, in the song cycles of Schubert, Schumann and Britten.
Philip Kalmanovitch, baritone
This Ottawa-born baritone immediately established himself as a gifted actor in Rossini’s “Largo al factotum” singing with imposing bravura and a bright, ringing sound. He followed his Mozart with a complete change of mood in a moving performance of an art song by Korngold. A veteran of mainstage productions with Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and Opéra de Montréal, Philip’s performance in Menotti’s The Consul, was lauded by Opera News and Opera Canada. Philip is a recipient of numerous honours including the Galaxie Musique Rising Star Award and is a two-time winner of the Prix Lyrique Allemand. In 2012-2013, he will make his debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
The Jury Deliberates
The members of this year’s jury were Robert Cooper – Director of Chorus Niagara, Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Opera in Concert Chorus, Black Creek Festival Chorus, and former CBC Radio classical music producer; Laurence Ewashko – Professor of Choral Studies at the University of Ottawa, Director of the Ewashko Singers, Chorus Master Opera Lyra Ottawa, and Associate Chorus Master for the National Arts Centre Orchestra; and Michael Zaugg – Director of Montreal’s St. Lawrence Choir, the Cantata Singers of Ottawa, ensemble voces boreales, 2012 Director of the Ontario Youth Choir, and the newly-appointed Director of Edmonton’s Pro Coro Canada Chamber Choir.
The Jury, and the Ottawa Choral Society, congratulate all of the winners and candidates, and look forward to exciting future collaborations with them.