Concours Musical International de Montréal Closes With Gala Concert

Friday, June 5, 2015: Maison Symphonique, Montréal, Quebec

The six finalists in this year’s vocal competition shared the spotlight with the Montréal Symphony Orchestra under conductor Johannes Debus in a program of favorite arias (mixed in with a few orchestral pieces) that both displayed their talents and reflected well on the judges’ discernment. After all, it takes a certain amount of nerve to sing Rossini’s extravagant tenor aria Si, ritrovaria io giuro from La Cenerentola in front of Marilyn Horne, or the Mad Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor for Richard Bonynge, but the former, intrepidly performed by first place winner Keonwoo Kim, and the latter, moving and brilliant as sung by runner up Hyesang Park (both from South Korea), brought the house to its feet.

Also particularly noteworthy was French soprano Anaïs Constans, winner of two of the special prizes, whose pure timbre and intelligent handling of the text informed her traversal of Mozart’s Voi avete un cor fedele, K. 217. The accompaniment here was particularly well played by Debus and the orchestra. Indeed, Debus and his team sounded very confident throughout an evening of miscellaneous items that they could not have had much time to rehearse. Winner Kim returned for a lovely rendering of Gounod’s Ah, lève-toi soleil (from Romeo and Juliet), while Park rather shamelessly cutsey-poohed her way through Juliet’s Waltz Song. It’s always difficult to inject enough “face” into a role when you’re standing on the concert platform rather than on the operatic stage, but Park would have done better to act less and sing more. She’s got genuine talent, as her winning of the People’s Choice award attests.

The orchestral numbers, Verdi’s overture to La Forza del Destino and a couple of the entr’actes from Carmen provided a bit of variety between arias, and it’s a credit to the award administration that the presentations that opened the program went smoothly and swiftly. The Councours features voice, piano, and violin in rotation, with the violinists up next. It’s easy to minimize the value of these events, especially in these days of jet-setting artists desperate to achieve their fifteen minutes’ of fame, but it is good to see real talent supported and promoted; and with a truly international group of finalists that included artists from Japan and Macedonia as well as France, South Korea, and of course Canada, the credibility of this particular competition should not be questioned.

The winners, listed below, share over $80,000 in prizes (eight awards and three grants):

SPECIAL PRIZES

Lied and French Art Song Prize
Offered by Clarence and Arija Stiver
$5,000
Anaïs CONSTANS, Soprano (France)

Award for the Best Canadian Artist
Offered by the Bourbeau Foundation
$5,000
France BELLEMARE, Soprano (Canada)

Joseph Rouleau Award for the Best Artist from Quebec
Offered by François R. Roy
$5,000
France BELLEMARE, Soprano (Canada)

Radio-Canada People’s Choice Award
$5,000
Hyesang PARK, Soprano (South Korea)

Award for the best semi-final recital
Offered by Tourisme Montréal
$2,500
Anaïs CONSTANS, Soprano (France)

MIMC Grants
For the three unranked finalists
Offered by Maurice Deschamps, Peter Hunt and Joseph Rouleau
$2,000
Anaïs CONSTANS, Soprano (France)
Vasil GARVANLIEV, Baritone (Macedonia)
Takaoki ONISHI, Baritone (Japan)

MAIN PRIZES

First Prize: $30,000
Offered by the Ville de Montréal
Keonwoo KIM, Tenor (South Korea)

Second Prize: $15,000
Offered by Canimex
Hyesang PARK, Soprano (South Korea)

Third Prize: $10,000
Offered by Cogeco
France BELLEMARE, Soprano (Canada)