There were about 150 people present outdoors in the square
at Cornac, (Lot département 46), when Les Amis
de Cornac organised a concert (Sunday 10th July 2011) presented
by two singers who have very recently moved to La Levade, about
a kilometre north of Cornac.
Nikolai Schukoff (tenor) and Isabelle Cals (mezzo) gave a programme
of solo arias and duets. In the first half they sang pieces
from grand opera and in the second half from German and French
Performing outdoors, without amplification does a singer no
favours at all and they were very brave to do it! There is nothing
to add resonance and reinforce the sound with reflections. It
is the ultimate in dead acoustics!
Tenor, Nikolai Schukoff
It was clear in the first piece, the duo "Già nella
notte densa" from Otello, that Nikolai has the more powerful
voice throughout the range. He has an open top end and he can
sing the romantic arias very convincingly, somewhere between
a lyric and a spinto tenor. His voice will probably darken and
add weight as he gets older, especially if, as I discovered
on his very professional website, he continues to sing Wagner.
Isabelle Cals - Mezzo Soprano
Isabelle's Séguédille "Près des remparts
de Séville" came across well to me in the second
row, with plenty of verve and with the lowest notes having the
right quality for a Carmen.
As I have written elsewhere,
the pronunciation of French has many pitfalls for the non-native
French speaker and Nikolai shared with Jonas Kaufmann in "La
fleur que tu m'avais jetée" the strange pronunciation
of " é "as an " i " (in french an
i is pronounced as ee) instead of an "ay" sound. I
know a certain German music teacher who would severely criticise
him for this fault, and it is surprising that Isabelle doesn't
correct him. I enjoyed it nonetheless.
At the end of the first half they both put everything they had
into "C'est toi? C'est moi." the closing scene from
Carmen, when she is murdered by Don José. For me it was
the dramatic peak of the evening. They have sung this together
Nikolaï Schukoff (Don José)
& Isabelle Cals (Carmen)
Nikolai, in spite of having a Russian sounding name, is Austrian
and was born near Graz. His stage presence is extraordinary.
He relishes every opportunity to portray the emotions in an
aria and he is very good at it! The acting re-inforces the singing
and he gets everything out of the piece. He is helped by his
Isabelle in real life is a lot sexier than this classic portrait
Isabelle used all her feminine wiles in the operetta arias.
She was flirtatious, charming and beguiling by turns. It is
clear that she is very much at home in this repertoire and the
fact that they are a couple helped to make the intimacy of the
physical contact between them in some of the arias feel very
natural. Her light, accurate and flexible voice really suited
this part of the programme.
Like some other professional singers I know, Isabelle has not
cultivated a presence on the web. So apart from the fact that
she is French and finished her formal studies in 1995 the small
amount of biographical information available is here.
When I looked at Nikolai's website in more detail he is already
on his way to an international career at the highest level.
And yes ladies, he is as virile as he looks in the pictures!
But, as he said on stage, he only has eyes for Isabelle!
icon to watch and lsiten
||Nikolai Schukoff perfoms "Maria",
West Side Story
||Isabelle Cals performs Jalousie's aria "Fille cruelle de l'amour"