The first event of my Montréal trip, not as a juror but a privileged guest, was the finals of the Song competition on Sunday afternoon. Above you see the four singers and their pianists. Julien Van Mellaerts (pianist João Pontes Araújo), Gemma Summerfield (pianist Sebastian Wybrew) John Brancy (pianist Peter Dugan) and Clara Osowski (pianist Olivier Godin). And what a feast they gave us. But we will not know who the winner is until Thursday evening after the Aria section is completed. The poor things will have to wait - that is cruel!
But the jury know......and what a wise and lovely lot they are, under the benign chairmanship of Zarin Mehta. Old friends and colleagues going back decades are Felicity Lott, Kiri Te Kanawa, Joseph Rouleau and François Le Roux - Glyndebourners of the 70s and 80s - as well as Warren Jones and Ben Heppner from my COC days. There are two immensely distinguished singer/teachers in Edith Bers and Soile Isokoske. And how lovely for me at last to meet Richard Rodzinski whose connection to me and all Glyndebourne old timers was his friendship with our beloved mutual friend and colleague Calvin Simmons who died young so tragically more than 35 years ago - seems like yesterday and it still hurts.
Yesterday afternoon Warren gave a truly revelatory masterclass to four young Montreal singers and their pianists. This was a riveting session - a wonderful bonus to get some jury members to inspire the next generation, in this case from the Montreal Opera studio, McGill University, the Montreal Conservatory, and the Université de Montréal. This afternoon it was the turn of Soile Isokoski to do the same with four more from the same institutions.
And yesterday evening we had the first leg of the Aria semifinals, six singers with the Montreal Symphony conducted by Graeme Jenkins. There will be the other 6 this evening and then the decision about the six finalists. Whereas I did not believe in the case of the song section that I am sufficiently qualified to make judgements - but I can imagine that the jury may have found it difficult - in this case I have my views on the candidates to date. And three of last night's were especially impressive. So I will be looking out for another three this evening.........
This is an impressively well managed competition lead by Christiane LeBlanc since 2013. Christiane has a rare combination of geniality and robust rigour and authoritativeness - a model captain of what is clearly a very tight ship. She has the recipe for success and the competitions go from strength to strength.
I hope to report the outcome of the semifinals later this evening. But no doubt full details will also appear very quickly on the CMIM Facebook page! And don't forget that if you are in a convenient time zone you can watch the whole evening on the live stream. Otherwise of course on catch up tomorrow - miracles of the 21st century!