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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    ON THE LAKE

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Most popular of the Harbourfront events are the Altamira Summer Opera Concerts, now in their ninth season and this year complemented by stunning performances by the Canadian Ballet. The opera concert, given on three successive days, offers a splendid way to spend a summer's evening, and attracts a capacity audience, many of whom queue from the early afternoon. The opening concert on 26 August was an especially magical and memorable evening, introduced by the radio presenter Michael Kramer of 'Classical 96.3 FM', who highlighted the long sightedness of the Altamira sponsors as well as some extra sponsorship by EMI Classics to help support a children's charity. Indeed, one of the unexpected highlights of the evening was the cheering performance by a children's choir from the Altamira Summer Opera Camp, which provides a three-week programme to some hundred and fifty young people from all backgrounds to taste opera-in-the-making. Conducted by their coach Sandra Boyes the choir sang their version of 'La, sui monti del'est' from Puccini's Turandot and the optimistic Hymn to Freedom by the Canadian Jazz genius Oscar Peterson.

The concert as a whole provided a glittering showcase for Canadian Opera Company's young singers participating in the two-year 'Ensemble Programme', but there were also some international stars. Chief amongst them was British baritone Alan Opie, in Toronto to rehearse Peter Grimes for COC's current season (in the ENO production), who sang a brilliantly captivating 'Prologue' from I Pagliacci, balancing power and delicacy. And the impressive Hungarian soprano Eszter Sumegi sang a richly dramatic rendition of 'Ebben Ebben? ... Ne andro lontana' from Catalani's La Wally and also brought thrilling intensity to 'Pace Pace' from Verdi's Forza del destino.

Soprano Colleen Skull and COC General Director Richard Bradshaw with the COC Orchestra at the 2003 Altamira Summer Opera Concerts. Photo © 2003 Nisha Lewis
Soprano Colleen Skull and COC General Director Richard Bradshaw with the COC Orchestra at the 2003 Altamira Summer Opera Concerts. Photo © 2003 Nisha Lewis

Most promising of the 'ensemble' singers were soprano Frederique Vezina who sang an aria from Lehar's Merry Widow, while the Italian soprano Serena Farnocchia displayed her velvety voice and characterisation in the poignant 'Senze mamma' from Puccini's Suor Angelica. Russian-born Robert Pomakov, a COC 'discovery', gave a nobly sonorous account of 'Vi ravviso' from Bellini's La Sonnabula, and also outstanding was the fireman-turned-tenor Luc Robert, in the famous duet from Bizet's Pearlfishers with the bass Olivier Laquerre. We also heard Dvorak's 'Song to the Moon' from Rusalka aptly sung towards a Moonlit harbour by Colleen Skull, a buoyant 'Drinking Song' from Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet sung by Peter Barrett and Peter Collins's atmospheric performance of 'Wintersturme' from Wagner's Die Walkure.

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Copyright © 2 October 2003 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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