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CD booklet

Opera News
January 10, 2019

FRENCH-CANADIAN MEZZO-SOPRANO Caroline Gélinas is a rising star in Canadian opera venues. Here, on her debut recital CD, she is showcased in a variety of challenging and stylistically varied song repertory—and she’s definitely up to the challenge. Gélinas has a beautiful lyric mezzo voice, most attractive in the middle and lower registers. She pours forth liquid tone, sensual and ravishing, especially in quieter moments. Also impressive is her command of French, German and English—her superb phrasing in all three languages and her excellent diction. This is a skilled singer and interpreter who seems mature beyond her years. Her only vocal weakness is a tendency to force the volume at moments of high emotion.

The album begins with Ravel’s familiar song cycle Shéhérazade, sung with a sensuous, dreamlike quality. All the striking images of Persia, India and China in the Asian fantasy “Asie” are here vividly brought to life by Gélinas and her splendid pianist, Olivier Godin, with many vocal colors throughout the song in the dark key of E-flat minor. Gélinas infuses the repeated phrase “Je voudrais voir” (I want to see…) with a palpable longing for adventure and excitement. The subsequent two Ravel songs, “La Flute enchantée” and “L’indifferent,” are sung with playful charm and a sense of mystery.

The mystery and sensuality in the voice persists in Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis, all three songs brimming with sexual frisson. Gélinas changes to German for Robert Schumann’s rarely heard late cycle Gedichte der Konigin Maria Stuart, taking the listener with Mary Stuart from her exile from her beloved France and imprisonment in Elizabethan England to her final acceptance of her fate and faith. These songs, written during Schumann’s final decline in health, are deeply felt explorations of sadness and devotion. Gélinas gives the cycle a real sense of Mary’s character and her journey from innocence to understanding. She changes her tonal quality from the sensuality of the previous cycles to an innocence and directness as the young Mary is swept up in circumstances beyond her control.

The final seven songs are in English—Robert James Berkeley Fleming’s The Confession Stone, set to poems by Owen Dobson’s Beyond the Blues: New Poems by American Negroes. Commissioned for Maureen Forrester, these biblical songs are sung from the points of view of Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene and others. While I don’t find the vocal writing of this cycle particularly distinguished, Gélinas displays admirable dramatic and emotional commitments to the pieces. Again, her soft singing is gorgeous and moving.

It’s always frustrating when texts are provided without translations, as is the case here. The reviewer is forced to find the translations online, splitting the focus between the impressions of the eyes and ears. I would also have enjoyed reading more about the reasons behind the choice of selections; Gélinas provides only a rather muddled statement about how “I feel great love and respect for nature…And music, for me, is a rich echo of all its beauties and mysteries.” I would much rather know what it is about the Ravel, Debussy, Schumann and Fleming cycles that drew the passion of this young singer.

© 2018 Opera News 

December 3, 2018

« Un beau coloris de mezzo, sensuel avec une pointe d’acidité, le souci d’alléger le chant avec pourtant de la puissance dans l’aigu, un pianiste remarquable de maîtrise et de poésie – autant d’atouts pour le premier album de Caroline Gélinas.

Jean-Philippe Grosperrin - Diapason  

November 19, 2018

Another day, another sensual, perfumed disc of song for a young promising mezzo. I have recently reviewed and enjoyed Marianne Crebassa’s Secrets, a journey through French (and some Turkish) repertoire, heavy with dreamy poetic imagery and suggestion. Here’s more of the same on the Canadian Atma label, suggestively titled Confidences. It is possibly a bit of an oversell, but this is a pleasing collection of familiar and specialist repertoire sung by up and coming Canadian mezzo Caroline Gélinas, whose debut for the label this is. The performance of Shéhérazade comes across well, its climaxes full of impact despite the lack of orchestra. Gélinas is a luminous story teller, edgy in places but fully aware of the texts’ erotic fervor and Ravel’s kaleidoscopic harmonies. Likewise the familiar coupling of Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis is given full expression. Gélinas maybe lacks Crebassa’s smoky gauze to the voice but her clarity of text is superb, and she colors the voice very subtly, conveying the suggestive nature of Pierre Louÿs’s poems of desire.

Less often encountered are Schumann’s Poems by Queen Mary Stuart. Set to German translations of poems allegedly by the Queen herself, taking in themes maternal love, homesickness from France, and death, this is a late work for Schumann, very much a dark, dark progression from his sweeter Frauenliebe und -leben. Introverted and somber in feel, this cycle acts as a clever emotional bridge between the French songs of love and the final work of religious devotion. Gélinas’s German is as clear as her French, and again, she finds the right shape and vocal color for these elusive wide ranging songs.

From Mary Stuart to the Songs of Mary or The Confession Stone. This cycle by Robert Fleming (1921–1976) is new to me. It is an odd take on the idea of confidences but musically it pairs nicely with the preceding works. Written in 1966, these are settings of texts by Owen Dobson that imagine confessions by Mary, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, Jesus, Judas, and God. These proclamations of religious longing make an interesting counterweight to the languid sexuality before and are beautifully sung here, with the spooky melodic lines of religious imagery being dramatic and compact. Written for the great Maureen Forrester, whose haunting performance is available online, these are very well written for the voice and unashamedly lyrical. Choosing this work is clearly symbolic for a new Canadian mezzo, given the legacy she is taking on, but Gélinas acquits herself well.

Gélinas is committed and expressive throughout, clean of diction in all three languages. It is a lovely voice, and luminous, although I sense some effort in her vibrato, or that could be the upfront recording. There are some strident operatic moments which strain her basic timbre, but I would really like to hear her live. Olivier Godin provides suitably flexible support in this wide range of song writing, although the piano is a little backward in the balance. The recorded sound is spacious but mikes Gélinas a little too closely, catching an unpleasant edge to the voice at times. The presentation is otherwise fine, with full texts in the original languages but, alas, no translations. As stated, Gélinas has a lot of competition in half this program, but the Robert Fleming work is intriguing enough to help her stick out from the crowd of other very good lyric mezzos. An enterprising debut.

© 2018 Fanfare

American Record Guide
September 20, 2018

Quebecois soprano Caroline Gelinas is impressive in this imaginative recital. Four song cycles are included: Ravel’s Scheherazade, Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis, Schumann’s Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart, and 20th Century Canadian composer Robert James Berkeley Fleming’s Confession Stone. A brief, enigmatic liner note by Gelinas alludes to a connection between these four song cycles and her own family lore. There are no further program notes of any kind, except the performers’ biographies and untranslated song texts. Despite this fact—or perhaps because of it—this is intimate and absorbing.

While it incorporates elements of the exoticism that was all the rage in Europe in the early 20th Century, Ravel’s Scheherazade fortunately eschews, for the most part, the kind of cheap musical effects that mar the work of lesser composers. Instead, Ravel relies on glittering piano textures to evoke the mysteries of distant lands and oscillating tremolos to depict the swirling shadows of an Arabian night. These instrumental effects are delicately articulated here by pianist Olivier Godin. (Ravel’s initial version was quickly followed by a fully orchestrated arrangement.) The first song in the set, ‘Asia’, is a tour de force, lasting nearly ten minutes. Gelinas demonstrates remarkable evenness of tone in its continuously shifting registers, and she is captured with remarkable clarity by sound engineer Dominic Beaudoin and producer Guylaine Picard. Indeed, one of the chief delights of this album is the crystalline production, which gives Gelinas an immediacy of presence and infuses Godin’s instrument with luminous warmth.

Schumann’s five-song cycle on poems attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots is a stark contrast with the exuberant style associated with his symphonies. Written near the end of his life, these songs no doubt reflect his failing health and flagging spirit. The relentless minor key sonorities and sparse piano textures create a mood that would be oppressive, were it not for the artistry of the performers, who bring compelling ardor and sensitivity to this brief cycle.

The name Robert James Berkeley Fleming will be unfamiliar to most of us, but Gelinas and Godin make a spirited case for the Canadian composer here. Fleming’s oeuvre seems to consist mainly of music for documentary films, prompting the question of whether he might have been a relative of one of the performers here. His eight-song cycle The Confession Stone (The Songs of Mary) is something of a curiosity; it is his only vocal work and draws entirely on sacred African-American poetry for its texts. These brief songs display the influence of Fleming’s composition teacher Healey Willan in their clean lyricism, though their spare modal quality also brings to mind the folk song arrangements of American composer John Jacob Niles. Their simplicity makes them an effective conclusion to an ambitious and fascinating recital program.

© Krishan Oberoi - American Record Guide

June 12, 2018

Voilà la révélation d’une cantatrice au verbe ciselé et au chant raffiné, d’une ivresse maîtrisée et superlative dans le genre de la mélodie. Ce premier disque est une consécration plein de promesse, et qui s’est récemment disitnguée lors de la 2è édition du Récital-Concours international de mélodies françaises du dernier festival CLASSICA (10 juin 2018) où la mezzo québécoise décrochait le 2è Prix. Une reconnaissance d’autant plus légitime qu’elle reprenait pour la compétition, le cycle des mélodies de Ravel ici inaugurales…

Le nouveau cd d’Atma classiques confirme que l’école de chant canadienne, en particulier québécoise se maintient dans l’excellence
Premier triomphe d’une nouvelle diseuse et mélodiste,
la Québécoise Caroline Gélinas

Vrai défi en terme d’articulation et d’intonation, le triptyque conçu par Tristan Klingsor (Shéhérazade) permet à Ravel d’étendre ses teintes diaprées, infiniment suggestives. Ici règne l’appel à l’évasion, au rêve, à une secrète sensualité (le « jeune étranger » de L’Indifférent). Caroline Gélinas s’entend à merveille à exprimer tout le mystère « oriental » et le parfum entêtant d’Asie ; la polychromie et les éclats de La Flûte enchantée ; l’apothéose de cette maîtrise se concentre, filigranée, miniaturiste dans la scène de séparation que nous avons citée : L’Indifférent. La diseuse, suave, distanciée mais pas artificielle, et d’une grâce infinie, exprime le désir frustré, et la caresse blessante de ce dernier poème au charme sublime.

D’une subtilité caressante, évocatrice et jamais trop manifeste, Caroline Gélinas enchante encore chez Debussy dont nous distinguons surtout le premier tableau des Chansons de Bilitis d’après Pierre Louÿs. D’une lascivité tissée dans une torpeur infinie, la Flûte de Pan saisit par la justesse de l’articulation à la fois naturelle et éngimatique. Là encore c’est la perfection du français chanté, déclamé qui convainc tout à fait. Comme dans les pièces qui suivent (La Chevelure…), on songe en parenté et filiation fraternelle, aux joyaux poétiques de Pelléas et Mélisande, mais Louÿs creuse davantage que Maeterlinck, l’onde suspendu d’une sensualité évanescente (ampleur des évocations de la Chevelure justement).

Des textes historicisant de Von Vincke, Schumann souligne la fine langueur, à la fois, éperdue, interrogative à l’évocation du destin de la Reine Maria Stuart, figure tragique, blessée mais si digne dont le courage et la noblesse ont inspiré bien des créateurs. Le velours attentif, la mesure intériorisée de la chanteuse savent exprimer l’intense douleur qui vibre sous chaque ligne de ce cycle de 5 lieder.

Plus ronde, plus langoureuse encore, la langue chantante que déploient les 8 songs en anglais (The Songs of Mary) de Robert Fleming intensifie les vertiges émotionnels de la Mère dont le fils unique fut sacrifié : versatile, fluide, étonnament changeante, la voix cisèle chaque séquence d’autant que, comme depuis le début de ce récital très abouti, le piano d’Olivier Godin, familier des nuances chambristes et lui aussi orfèvre en éclats mordorés, fait étinceler son clavier en vrai poète de l’indiciblement expressif. Duo admirable. Donc logiquement, CLIC de CLASSIQUENEWS

Alban Deags - 

La Scena musicale
June 11, 2018

Radio-Canada revelation of the year in the classical category and the holder of grants from the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation, Hnatyshyn Foundation, Stingray Rising Star, Jeunesses musicales du Canada and the Art Song Foundation of Canada, the young mezzo-soprano Caroline Gélinas has made her first album, accompanied by pianist Olivier Godin, under the Atma Classique music label.

Ravel’s Shéhérazade, comprising three songs, is the opening piece. We discover a singer whose tone is velvety and languid, perfect for interpreting this exotic cycle by a French composer. Her diction is clear and there is real determination to tell a story. The pianist’s subtle efforts carry us with a certain nonchalance into this universe. Debussy’s Trois chansons de Bilitis come next. The listener finds here much sensuality, particularly in “La Chevelure.” Godin’s subtle and refined playing marvellously sustains a text that evokes mythical creatures.

In Schumann’s Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart (Poems by Queen Mary Stuart) the mezzo-soprano shows us the vulnerability and sensibility of the fallen queen. This cycle isSchumann’s last. Its themes, all in minor mode, shine a light on how the composer felt towards the end of his life. The melodies evoke a great heaviness of spirit. The Confession Stone cycle by Canadian composer Robert Fleming, originally composed for contralto Maureen Forrester, completes the album. The religious poems written by Owen Dobson are inspired by spirituals; the melodies reflect this sonority. Gélinas’ and Godin’s interpretations are very tender and lead us to discover the full scale of the young mezzo-soprano’s voice. 


The WholeNote
May 30, 2018

Mezzo-soprano Caroline Gelinas, having recently received the honour of Revelation Radio-Canada in the classical category, is, as an alumna of Atelier Lyrique de l’Opera de Montreal, already known for her “magnetic stage presence, rich timbre and authentic and moving interpretations.” And listening to the emotively complex repertoire chosen for this debut solo recording, one couldn’t agree more. Having chosen to sing the roles of strong women acting ingeniously in difficult situations and tragic circumstances, Gelinas demonstrates an enormous dramatic range whilst maintaining exquisite vocal tone. As the three songs of Ravel’s Shéhérazade progress, the singer increases the intensity to portray the storyteller’s ingenious effort to prolong her life. For Debussy’s Trois Chansons de Bilitis, her voice floats freely as if in a dream over a more structured accompaniment, beautifully executed by pianist Olivier Godin. Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart by Robert Schumann is a song cycle which spans 26 years of Mary Stuart’s life, from young girl to mother to imprisoned queen. Gelinas demonstrates a poignantly exquisite tenderness in the last movement as Mary prays while awaiting execution.

As a final offering on this recording, Gelinas tackles, and does great justice to, one of Maureen Forrester’s favourite cycles, The Confession Stone by Robert Fleming, based on poems by playwright and teacher Owen Dobson. Gelinas deftly changes character with each segment, portraying Mary, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, Jesus, Judas and God.

Dianne Wells - The WholeNote  

ICI Musique
May 4, 2018

La mezzo-soprano Caroline Gélinas fait paraître son tout premier album solo, Confidences, sous Atma classique. Notre Révélation Radio-Canada en musique classique s’est inspirée de sa jeunesse et des histoires que lui racontait sa mère pour nous inviter à son tour dans des univers merveilleux et envoûtants.

L’année Révélation de Caroline Gélinas : l’heure du bilan
Shéhérazade de Ravel comprend tout ce qui fait le génie du compositeur français : évocations intimistes de mondes étonnants, écriture harmonique mouvante et ondoyante comme un voile de mystère ajouté au sujet, colorations fantastiques de l’accompagnement musical (qu’il soit avec orchestre ou, comme ici, piano).

Les Mille et une nuits sont ici teintées de secrets et d’énigmes fascinantes, comme les histoires que la belle Shéhérazade raconte au sultan nuit après nuit, sauvant ainsi sa vie. On ne pouvait mieux lancer cet album!

La voix de Caroline, amenée ici en zone d’apesanteur qu’un soprano fréquenterait avec aisance, est belle et lumineuse, franche et gracieuse. Olivier Godin, qui l’accompagne au piano, amène sa touche doucement perlée, parfaitement expressive.

Les Trois chansons de Bilitis, de Debussy, nous transportent, elles, dans l’univers de la Grèce antique, lointaine et atemporelle, grâce à la plume du compositeur, bien entendu, mais aussi aux textes de Pierre Louÿs, confiés à notre discrétion avec élégance par la mezzo-soprano québécoise.

Les Poèmes de la reine Marie Stuart, de Schumann, ramènent Caroline en territoire plus franchement mezzo, où l’on se ravit de son instrument vocal riche et soyeux.

Le programme se termine avec une découverte : The Confession Stone (The Songs of Mary),du Canadien Robert Fleming, cycle de huit chansons inspirées d’autant de poèmes écrits à la façon de spirituals afro-américains par Owen Dobson. Le cycle a été créé en 1966 par Maureen Forrester, manifestement l’une des idoles de Caroline (en plus de Maria Callas!).

Frédéric Cardin - ICI Musique