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For anyone wondering what happened to vocal recitals in Toronto, salvation is here. Tenor David Pomeroy is offering a rich and varied programme at the Glenn Gould Studio on Sunday, as part of Roy Thomson Hall’s Canadian Voices series.
It’s an opportunity for the Orangeville resident to sing close to home again before taking off for the Metropolitan Opera’s spring production of Charles Gounod’s Faust.
Although Pomeroy is coming into his vocal prime at age 39, and has spent the last six seasons working at the Met, the tenor says this is going to be his professional recital début.
“The last time I sang by myself was in university,” says the University of Toronto graduate.
Pomeroy admits to being a bit nervous.
“It’s nice to kick back in a costume and be a character,” he says. “Now it’ll be just me.”
His accompanist is Sandra Horst, whom he has known since university days. She helps run the opera programme at the Faculty as Music and is chorus master at the Canadian Opera Company. Pomeroy apprenticed in the Ensemble Studio and has worked in the professional company, most recently in last fall’s production of Die Fledermaus.
Pomeroy has also sung with the Aldeburgh Connection in past seasons, but he was never responsible for a full solo programme.
The singer says he finalized his repertoire about four months ago, after thinking about it for a year. The programmers had heard him sing two years in a row at Attila Glatz’s annual New Year’s Day opera-themed concert at Roy Thomson Hall, and thought it was time for Toronto to experience Pomeroy’s art solo.
The programme opens with two arias by George Frideric Handel — the sweet “Gentle airs, melodious strains” from Athalia and “Sound an Alarm” from Judas Maccabeus, which should allow Pomeroy to blow the audience’s hair back in the intimate Glenn Gould Studio.
Aside from regular gigs singing Messiah since his undergraduate voice-student days at Memorial University in St John’s, Pomeroy hasn’t sung much Handel. In fact, he says, all of the music on the programme is new to him.
A singer’s voice changes in all sorts of ways as it matures, and Pomeroy wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t bring any long-forgotten bad vocal habits to the concert by choosing music he may have sung as a student.
“I wanted to bring something fresh to the table and be me,” he says. “I wanted to start with a clean slate.”
That included art song that he has admired and coveted for many years, including Ludwig van Beethoven’s sole song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte (To a Distant Beloved), mélodies by Henri Duparc — “French opera is one of my specialties, after all,” says Pomeroy — three of the gorgeous Shakespeare Songs by Roger Quilter and three Neapolitan chestnuts by Ernesto de Curtis.
“We have to do Neapolitan songs or the audience would start throwing things at me,” laughs Pomeroy, who has the big, ringing instrument necessary for taking a juicy bite out of that repertoire.
The recital closes with a set of three Newfoundland sea songs arranged by Donald Cook that also call for a clarinet soloist.
Cook was a friend of Pomeroy’s grandfather, Ignatius Rumboldt. The pair counted among the founders of the music department at Memorial University (Cook’s name is on a recital hall about the size of the Glenn Gould Studio) and the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.
“The Newfoundland songs are an homage to my family and friends,” says Pomeroy, who has relatives flying in from St John’s for Sunday’s concert.
Pomeroy says his teachers told him to wait until after he had expanded and solidified his technique as an opera singer before turning to art song. And it sounds like he’s enjoying the experience of getting ready for this.
“You get to strip down everything and just do what the composer wrote,” the singer explains. “You get to sing soft — I don’t have to sing over an orchestra. The pianissimo in a Beethoven song is really soft, not like the pianissimo in a Verdi opera.”
Not that it’s easy to prepare.
“Putting this programme together has taken a lot more time and effort than I expected — about as much as a large opera role,” Pomeroy says.
But he’s thrilled: “This is the most intimate way we can perform.”
The recital happens on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. For details and tickets, click here.
In case you haven’t heard Pomeroy in action, here he is Pomeroy singing “Tombe degli’avi miei” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor: