Singing: Opera Testimonials

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"Elisabeth Pomès is perfectly comical and engaging as the maid, Despina, almost stealing the show."

Niall O’Rourke. “Cosi Fan Tutte: Banff Centre production shows what opera should be.”
7 August 1991.

"Adding the finishing touches to this concert was soprano Elisabeth Pomès. Besides her sound technique, which facilitates a free, spinning effect that brings the lovely quality of her voice to the audience, the sense of importance that she brings to the event creates an excitement in the air. Her stance is confident and her sense of communication and sensitivity to the words is never lacking."

Ron Morgan. “Bach not alone in Baroque showcase.” The Underground. 21 November 1989.

 

Richard Todd. “Singer sensitive in modern works.”

Performance
Elisabeth Pomès, soprano and Peter Tiefenbach, piano
Carleton University Alumni Theatre
Sunday only

Elisabeth Pomès is a soprano with a rich voice that could, and probably does occasionally, work in the mezzo range. The fact that she is touring the country as winner of the 1993 Eckhart-Gramatté Vocal Competition might suggest that she is a young, largely untried singer. In fact, she is a seasoned professional with experience in opera, concerts, recitals and radio.

Although her repertoire is by no means confined to new music, her present tour program is all from the 20th century. Sunday night’s performance at Carleton University’s Alumni Theatre showed her to be a persuasive advocate of a broad range of modern musical styles.

If she was to be faulted for anything it was her diction. Although one could usually follow the words when she was singing in French, English song texts were all but incomprehensible.

She opened the program with George Crumb’s Apparition, a gentle if unconventional setting of poetry by Walt Whitman. Pomès handled the melodic vocal line with sensitivity while pianist Peter Tiefenbach scraped and strummed the strings of his piano, and occasionally struck a few keys in a most musical manner.

Patrick Cardy’s song cycle Autumn was the “imposed” piece in the 1993 competition, but it’s doubtful that many of the entrants found it much of an imposition. If it was a little inconsequential, at least it was eminently singable music.

The one item on the program that was well known, selections from Joseph Canteloube’s Songs from the Auvergne, was perhaps the least interesting as well. Pomès sang the songs with the necessary color and sexy demeanor, but they sounded a little out of place in a program of relatively challenging music.

Benjamin Britten’s Quatre chansons françaises was written in 1928, when the composer was only 15. While the songs are highly eclectic, even derivative, and while they only hint at Britten’s adult style, they still have a strong, if naïve sound of modernism about them.

Pomès was at her best in two unaccompanied items, a wordless aria from R. Murray Schafer’s The Princess of the Stars and Luciano Berio’s Sequenza III. In both cases she succeeded brilliantly in creating self-sufficient worlds of artistic expression. The Schafer was the more satisfying of the two pieces, but the Berio had much to say as well, and said it with considerable wit.

The program ended with a delightful song cycle by accompanist Tiefenbach entitled Songs from my Cupboard. Struck by the poetic force of the French versions of the label information on several products he keeps in his kitchen, Tiefenbach decided to set four of them to music in a variety of styles.

Among the products thus illuminated were Japanese seaweed, cornstarch (Canada’s national spice, according to the composer) and steak spice.

It’s hard to describe the depth of feeling with which Pomès sang the lines of the corn starch song that meant “Helps to absorb perspiration and prevent unpleasant odors in shoes,” or the serene bliss with which she sang of “soothing relief from sunburn and minor skin irritation.”

The cycle ended with a “cautionary tango” concerning the potential risks of using A.S.A. tablets.

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