Monday, March 19, 2012

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.

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.

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