A young heldentenor rocks the house at the George London Awards

Sat Feb 23, 2019 at 2:34 pm
Kyle van Schoonhoven, 2019 George London Award winner, photo by Jennifer Taylor

Kyle van Schoonhoven sang “Mein lieber Schwan” from Wagner’s “Lohengrin” at the George London Awards on Friday. Photo: Jennifer Taylor

The Morgan Library played host to the finals of the George London Awards competition on Friday evening. As ever, it was a chance to hear a number of talented young singers for the first time.

The tenors as a group gave an excellent showing overall. Joseph Tancredi, the youngest male singer at 21, showed a full, caramel tone in an unapologetically romantic rendition of “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,” from Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns. Matthew Swensen sported a ringing leggiero sound in an easy, flowing account of Il Barbiere di Siviglia’s “Ecco ridente in cielo,” and Charles Sy impressed with a rich tenor in  “Ich baue ganz” from Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which won him one of the five George London Award prizes.

Among five sopranos, the only winner selected was Rebecca Pedersen, who brought enormous volume and power to Tannhäuser’s “Dich teure Halle.” Shannon Jennings opened the evening with “Stridono lassù,” Nedda’s aria from Pagliacci, giving an aggressive reading and showing a voice a bit too heavy for such a nimble aria. Sarah Joyce Cooper closed the first half with a thrilling performance of “Sempre libera,” offering a bright, crisp sound and fluttering coloratura. 

The youngest performer of the evening was 20-year-old Olivia Smith, who gave a lovely, unaffected rendition of “Deh vieni non tardar” in a cushioned caramel tone. Elizabeth Reiter’s interpretation of “No word from Tom,” Anne’s aria from The Rake’s Progress, was the most accomplished of the soprano performances. The blazing clarity of her tone and her control were striking, as was the close relationship between her phrasing and the text.

Mezzo-soprano Polixeni Tsiouvaras showed a dark, wide sound with full tone in “Se Romeo t’uccise un figlio” from I Capuletti e i Montecchi. Carolyn Sproule, one of the five winners, brought a lovely soft voice to “Deh! Proteggimi o Dio,” Adalgisa’s aria from Norma, though her tone took on a harder edge when she sang at full volume. Mezzo Samantha Gossard also earned one of the five top awards with her endearingly simple reading of “Connais-tu le pays” from Massenet’s Mignon.

Nora London with the 2019 George London Award Winners. From left to right, MR, Photo: Jennifer Taylor

Nora London with the 2019 George London Award Winners. From left to right, Carolyn Sproule, Samantha Gossard, Charles Sy, Rebecca Pedersen, and Kyle van Schoonhoven. Photo: Jennifer Taylor

There were no baritones at all among Friday’s finalists, and only two low male voices on the evening: first up was bass Ron Dukes, who sang “Vous qui faites l’endormie,” one of Mephistopheles’s arias from Faust. He owns a strong, wooly instrument but has yet to achieve full control over it: he struggled with consistency of tone and intonation, even as he sang with a suave devilish affect. Vartan Gabrielian brought a husky, booming bass-baritone to “Quand la flamme de l’amour,” and a touching troubadour aria from Bizet’s rarely heard La jolie fille de Perth.

Three singers gave the most memorable performances of the evening, though not all three went home with awards.

Matthew White showed off a distinctive tenor in “O paradis” from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, his dark and powerful lyric sound blazing at his top and grainy in his lower voice. It was surprising that mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms did not earn a top prize for her moving account of the Letter Scene from Werther. Her weighty, colorful voice and deep velvet texture were an ideal fit for the aria and she found real emotional depth in the text, singing with power and focus all the while.

The evening ended, appropriately, with the most stunning performance of all: Kyle van Schoonhoven showed the makings of a star heldentenor with“Mein lieber Schwan” from Lohengrin. He has that coveted combination of full tone, brightness, power, and flexibility perfectly suited to Wagner’s demanding tenor roles. Moreover, he matched that remarkable power with keen emotional sense, channeling grief through his ringing farewells. It was no surprise that he earned one of the five top prizes of the evening, and it will be no surprise to see him taking on major Wagner roles with major companies before long.

2 Responses to “A young heldentenor rocks the house at the George London Awards”

  1. Posted Feb 23, 2019 at 4:55 pm by Suzanne

    Bravissimo Kyle. I have known his career for some time. He is all you say and more. Brilliant career ahead for sure

  2. Posted Feb 23, 2019 at 11:38 pm by Norma

    Awesome an Congrats Kyle Schoonhaven

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