Second prize-winner in 2017 of the Recital Competition of French Art Song at the Classica Festival, soprano Magali Simard-Galdès this year won first prize for her performance of the art songs of Cécile Chaminade, accompanied by Michel-Alexandre Broekaert, who won the pianist’s prize. The Rimouski-born singer and champion of Chaminade is very proud of this feat, winning over the jury in the face of works by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré and Poulenc. Chaminade (1857-1944) was a concert pianist and prolific composer much loved in her time. Simard-Galdès likes her simple and limpid poetry, which lets the musical phrases speak for themselves.
The young soprano’s career has encompassed concerts, recitals and opera. In 2016-2017, having won the Maureen Forrester Prize, Simard-Galdès went on a Canadian tour sponsored by Jeunesses musicales Canada. This “vocal marathon” featured the music of Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Ana Sokolović and Chaminade, with piano accompaniment by Hébert-Bouchard and Karine Bétournay. The last 12 months have seen her touring in Europe at Opéra Grand Avignon and Atelier lyrique de Tourcoing, as well as in the United States, where she sang Roxane in Cyrano (by the late David DiChiera) and Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto with Opera Carolina.
“In art songs, the writing is closer to the text, and there are fewer melismata,” she says. “What’s fascinating in a recital is that your voice can add so many colours to the text.” Citing Elly Ameling as an exemplary recitalist, Simard-Galdès considers the art song to be like chamber music: “The pianist is never an accompanist; you’re really a duo trying to marry colours and prosody.” There’s also a closeness between performers and audience. As a singer, Simard-Galdès tries to keep a low profile to let the audience appreciate all the stories that make up a concert.
At present, the soprano is immersing herself in the score of Massenet’s Werther, studying the part of Sophie, which she will be singing from Oct. 20 to 27 at the Grand Théâtre in Quebec City. The part brings some sunshine to the suffering of Goethe’s young hero.
“You have to do a lot of research for an operatic role,” she says. “You need to know the historical background and read original works, novels and plays and compare them with the libretto to understand the internal dynamic of the opera.”
Simard-Galdès will put on her gypsy outfit in May 2019 to sing Frasquita in Carmen for the Opéra de Montréal.