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thestar: Bayrakdarian soars with Mozart

GEOFF CHAPMAN

MUSIC CRITIC

The countess Adèle was bemoaning her lonely, loveless life to a disguised hermit in the aria “En proie à la tristesse” — and hundreds of panting, would-be suitors in Thomson Hall were instantly ready to comfort her.

That countess was dazzling Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, singing the aria from Rossini’s comic opera Le Comte Ory, and the Toronto Symphony under Sir Andrew Davis was in full musical sympathy with her plight.

This wry declaration of melancholy was the occasion of some of the best, high-flying coloratura you’ll hear for a while, full of blazing moments that inevitably led to a big Standing O.

Our glamorous soprano, always on the verge of breaking out of barely contained ecstasies, showed a faultlessly sustained command of colour and dynamics.

Last night’s concert, the first of four, was one of charm and imagination, with large helpings of Mozart finding the orchestra in lively, bright-toned mode.

The composer’s lovely melodies are tailor-made for Bayrakdarian and her emotional involvement was clear in two arias from the serenata Il Re pastore, her soaring sweetness and exceptional breath control over a cushion of strings evident in the love-struck “L’amero saro costante” and “Alla selva, al prato, al fonte”. Fully engaged with the text, the notes and her colleagues, she conquered an audience in a state of reverent hush with the sheer beauty of her voice.

Her concert aria, words drawn from Mozart’s Idomeneo, was delivered with zeal, expressive passion married to intelligent interpretation and absolute attention paid to tonal nuance. Perhaps there were times when low notes seemed to disappear but that was a tiny flaw.

The concert began with Stravinsky’s Symphonies Of Wind Instruments, a work that originally was a chorale for recently expired composer Debussy. Its 1947 incarnation featured brass and woodwinds and Russian folk melodies in conjunction with modest sonorities. It was short, an odd program choice to point to the imminent vocal glories.

Davis was himself featured on piano in Mozart’s concert rondo for piano and orchestra, a very serviceable effort conducted from the keyboard stool.

The TSO was in fine fettle for the evening closer, Beethoven’s eighth symphony, its familiar strains masking the stop-and-start eccentricities from the composer that are particularly noticeable in the opening movement. The playing throughout was a bracing treat

The program can be heard again tonight at 8, on Saturday (sans the Stravinsky) at 7.30 and on Sunday at 3 at the Weston Recital Hall.

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