This is not a political blog but these are not normal times. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and condemn in the strongest terms the current aggression by the fascist regimes in Moscow and Minsk as well as their enablers and supporters in the United States and elsewhere.
My review of the COC’s revival of Richard Strauss’ Salome is now up at Bachtrack.
The 2019 production from the Opernstudio der Bayerischen Staatsoper (basically their young artists programme) was a bit unusual. Director Axel Ranisch created a kind of mash up of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Stravinsky’s very short opera Mavra. Iolanta is about a blind princess who doesn’t realise she is blind. It’s only when she meets her future husband, a French count Vaudémont, that she realises this. Her father the king employs a Moorish doctor to try and cure her, which fails, but believing that if she doesn’t pretend to be sighted her suitor will be executed she fakes it and is given to him in marriage. He alone realises she is still blind and puts out his own eyes in sympathy (this is pretty hard to watch!). In the process they both realise that God’s creation is much greater than human eyes can perceive.
Tu me voyais is a new CD from soprano Christina Raphaëlle Haldane and pianist Carl Philippe Gionet. It contains Gionet’s arrangements of Twelve Acadian Folk Songs plus a piece by Adam Sherkin setting poetry by Gionet and two pieces by Jérome Blais setting texts by Léonard Forest and Herménégilde Chiasson.
The twelve folk songs are all Acadien but unsurprisingly some of have roots further back in France. There are songs from Poitou and Gascony (so they are really English….) and so on. They are typically strophic songs with refrains and get a respectful treatment in the style of French chansons though this doesn’t mean the piano part is straightforward!. I like the simplicity of this approach because many of these songs are just gorgeous and Christina sings them with beauty and humour and, in some places, considerable agility coupled to a command of standard international French, Acadien and Poitevin. She really has a lovely rich yet flexible instrument. Gionet is a very sympathetic and accomplished accompanist too.
Unruly Sun is a song cycle in 19 parts with music by Matthew Ricketts (left) and words by Mark Campbell (below). It’s inspired by Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature and was performed last night in Mazzoleni Hall by tenor Karim Sulayman accompanied by piano and string quintet. I was much more affected by this piece than I expected to be. The text covers a lot of ground; Jarman’s cottage at Dungeness with it’s bleak shingle beach and nuclear power station, AIDS and the loss of friends, a bad porn movie and, of course, Jarman’s garden (which also of course inspired Tm Albery’s Garden of Vanished Pleasures), and anger at Thatcher’s Britain and her indifference to those suffering from AIDS (c.f. Jarman’s The Last of England). These ideas are linked together by sections about plants and flowers and quotes from (I think) John Donne. So, the AIDS crisis and the burning tire fire of Thatcherism meets the Georgian tradition that links the Elizabethans to Edmund Blunden and beyond. It’s beautifully constructed and the somewhat minimalist, evocative and rather beautiful music supports without imposing itself. And the performance was stunning; beautiful singing, beautiful playing and cool projected images. Continue reading
My review of the COC’s revival of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro is now up at Bachtrack.
The 21C Afterhours concert in Temerty Theatre last night featured a candle lit performance by a varied ensemble of conservatory students conducted by Brian Current. Brian did a great job of introducing the music; contextualizing it and suggesting what the audience might listen for. That could maybe be done more often with complex contemporary music.
The first piece was Bekah Simms’ Foreverdark. It’s a ten minute concertino for amplified cello, ensemble and electronics playing homage to heavy metal. It’s scored for a quite a large group including strings, brass, woodwinds and lots of percussion including a drum kit. It starts out very abrasively then becomes somewhat more lyrical and the then the texture lightens up but it’s still pretty complex. David Liam Roberts was the soloist and did an excellent job.
I have now had a chance to listen to the new SACD release of the 1965 Solti recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre. (For some reason Das Rheingold hasn’t arrived yet). I’m not going to do a detailed review of the performance since pretty much everything that could be said about it has been, and by people better qualified than me. As you might expect for a recording twice voted “recording of the century”. I’ve also already written about the technical details of the new transfer in my review of the sampler disk.
I went to the Toronto release concert for Payadora Tango Ensemble’s Silent Tears: The Last Yiddish Tango last night at Heliconian Hall. Nearly all the music played was on the CD which I described in some detail here. There were a few “extras”. There was a song from Lenka Lichtenberg’s new Album Thieves of Dreams. There was also an upbeat Argentinian tango to finish which I was rather in need of.
It being Holocaust Remembrance Week it was entirely appropriate that Tuesday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by the Likht Ensemble of Jaclyn Grossman, soprano, and Nate Ben-Horin, piano. The material was mostly drawn from music written/collected at either Theresienstadt or in the ghettos of Lithuania.
Here’s what I’m looking forward to in February plus a few gigs I can’t make:
- February 1st and 2nd the Chicago Symphony and Riccardo Muti are performing at Koerner Hall. It’s a rare opportunity to hear a top orchestra in the wonderful Koerner acoustic but it’s probably sold out already.
- On February 3rd the COC opens a run of Richard Strauss’ Salome with Ambur Braid in the title role and a stellar supporting cast. Hard core Braid fans (and that includes me) know that this is a role she was born to sing. It’s an Atom Egoyan production and he’ll likely tweak it but here’s a link to my review of the 2013 run.
- February 6th sees the return of the Quilico Awards; a competition for the singers of the Ensemble Studio. That’s at 5.30pm in the RBA and it’s free.