Tune in to Teatro Real's LIVE FEED of Puccini's La Bohème (2pm EST, 7pm GMT, 8pm CET)! Joyce is Musetta, Anita Hartig is Mimi, Stephen Costello is Rodolfo, Joan Martin-Royo is Schaunard, Etienne Dupuis is Marcello, Mika Kares is Colline,
“…the infinite length of the breath, the science of chiaroscuro, the projection of the treble, the quality of the pianissimi, the variety of accents, in turn authoritarian and vulnerable, including in extraordinarily lively recitatives, as we had not heard them since Maria Callas. As for the bewitching final cantilene (<<Col sorriso d’innocenza>>) no Imogene had reached such summits since Montserrat Caballé.”
The soprano Joyce ElKhoury interprets Imogene with a highly placed voice. Her limpid timber swells with emotion in the lower register and in the piano moments, with a thread like sound fleeing from her nearly closed mouth. In a palpitating finale, her acting talents, unbothered by any mise en scene, are shining: her eyes cry, hope, lose themselves and beg in the folly of a character too virtuous to live her illegitimate love, but too in love to live without him.
What we hear from the Canadian singer, perfectly at ease with the vocal poetic language of Italian romanticism, deserves more than respect. From her entrance aria to the great final scene immortalized by Callas [ ] Joyce El-Khoury holds herself consistently at the highest level of vocal and musical quality. To her aerial vocalism and her long Bellinian legato lines, she adds here a surprising foundation in the lower register, so often appealed to in this opera. It is a triumph largely deserved she receives at the bows.
This revival's unqualified triumph is Joyce El-Khoury as the slave Liu. This fast-rising Canadian soprano captivates whenever she opens her mouth. The role of Liu is not a star-making part, yet she is gifted with two of Puccini's most memorable soprano arias: the meltingly lyrical "Signore, ascolta!" ("My lord, listen!") and her dramatic death scene, "Tu che di gel sei cinta" ("You who are frozen in ice"). El-Khoury caps the former aria with an ethereally floated pianissimo that all but slides down the walls of the parquet. Her performance of the latter aria—which culminates in Liu's suicide—is as dramatically realized as I've ever seen or heard. This is a talent I expect to encounter for years to come, and I couldn't be happier.
As the heartbroken Liu, soprano Joyce El-Khoury pleads with him in “Signore, ascolta!” full of desperate pain and high ghostly notes so delicate they almost seem to disappear into the air. While still considered a supporting character, Liu remains a musical focus of the piece and becomes the tragic heroine, brilliantly handled by El-Khoury in “Tu che di gel sei cinta” as she makes her final sacrifice.
CBC Music is offering Joyce's debut solo album, ÉCHO, as a free stream 'FirstPlay' starting today, ramping up for the CD's digital release on September 8! If you're in Canada, you can enjoy this perk here. Either way, there's a