Once in a while an opera video comes my way that’s so bonkers that I hardly know how to describe it. Emma Dante’s production of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel; recorded at Teatro dell’opera di Roma in 2019 would be a candidate for the most bonkers of all!
The Dominion Foundry complex is a group of heritage buildings just to the north of Canary Village. They aren’t the prettiest buildings in Toronto but they are pretty much the last surviving remnant of the West Don Lands industrial heritage. There’s a study under way to assess the feasibility of turning them into an arts and community complex which is something the east end needs. More details on that proposal here. Today I learned that the province is planning on razing the whole complex without any kind of community consultation or input.
The latest set of “guidelines” from the Government of Ontario will no doubt be interpreted in various ways but one thing is clear they are affecting some organisations production schedules and there have been cancellations and postponements notably from the Royal Conservatory and Tapestry Opera. Frankly the situation is too muddy and too fluid for me to bother with updates to schedules right now. All I can suggest is that if you are planning to watch any Toronto produced streams keep checking the company websites for news on what is and isn’t happening.
Presto Classical lists over 100 recordings of Schubert’s Winterreise for (almost) every voice type accompanied on pianoforte, fortepiano, string quartet and probably more. It’s also frequently performed live and I’ve certainly seen it done multiple times in settings ranging from the most formal of Liederabend to staged with projections and all manner of things. So why bother with another new recording? Well it’s largely because I’m a fan of English baritone Roderick Williams who has just had a Winterreise recording, with Iain Burnside at the piano, released on the Chandos label.
The Crossing must be one of North America’s most interesting and accomplished choirs. They specialise in difficult contemporary music that is a million miles away from most of the new music that is being composed for the (lucrative) amateur choir market. Their latest CD; The Tower and the Garden, is due for release on the Navona label on February 12th. I really like it.
There are three pieces on the disk. The first is an a cappella setting of Walt Whitman’s A Child Said, What is the Grass? by Tolvo Tuley. It’s worth reading the text in advance because this piece builds up in layers like renaissance polyphony or, perhaps more aptly, a piece by John Tavener. There are certainly echoes of the Greek Orthodox tradition here but only echoes. What really strikes is that the tension that keeps building and really doesn’t resolve. It’s as uncomfortable and enigmatic as Whitman’s answer to the child’s question; “the beautiful uncut hair of graves”. Throughout the choir display an astonishing control of textures and dynamics.
The “postponed from the fall” double bill from the Glenn Gould School finally streamed on the Koerner Hall channel last night. The first piece was likely familiar to most viewers; Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins given in piano score in a production by Amanda Smith. The concept here is that Anna 2, rather than being a dancer, is some kind of on-line celebrity exploiting dating sites to bring her fame and fortune. The production had originally been designed for an audience and used moveable plexi-glass shields to ensure social distancing. It also made extensive use of projected conversation bubbles, emojis and other social media effects. This seems to have been ramped up in post production to add picture-in-picture effects and maybe to make the lighting; already a sort of rave inspired blend of blues and pinks with touches of rather lurid green, even more dramatic. With on screen subtitles it was arresting but maybe just a little too busy to fully process!
Right now January is looking a bit thin. All I have booked right now are:
January 8th at 7.30pm. The Glenn Gould School’s postponed fall opera show. It’s Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins and Bolcom’s Lucrezia. That’s going to be streamed free on the Koerner Hall performance website.
January 13th at 6pm is the next concert in the Confluence series. It’s The Mandala – The Beauty of Impermanence and it’s curated by Suba Shankaran. Also free and streamed on the Confluence Youtube channel.
January 30th at 8pm. Tapestry’s next offering. It’s called A Joke Before the Gallows and features pianist Adam Sherkin performing Chopin’s four masterpiece scherzi alongside monologues written by David James Brock. The show is described as “blackly funny and thought-provoking” and is directed by Tom Diamond. Also free, also on Youtube.
There will likely be additions as the moth goes on as people seem to put stuff up with very little advance notice!
What a truly strange year! Going back over my writing looking for highlights just made it seem stranger! I see now that it fell into three chunks. The first started perfectly normally with the usual run of operas and concerts and that all ended abruptly on March 13th. UoT Opera’s Mansfield Park was the last live show I saw in 2020. Leaving the theatre that night we knew there was going to be a hiatus but I don’t think at that point anybody thought we would be going into 2021 with no end in sight.
Over the next few months Tapestry will be offering three new shows recorded in the Ernest Balmer Studio and streamed via Youtube. The line up is:
A Joke Before the Gallows: Pianist Adam Sherkin performs a musical story celebrating the dramatic music of Chopin, directed by Tom Diamond, with text by David James Brock, in co-production with The Piano Lunaire. That premiers on January 30th.
Our Song D’Hiver: Soprano Mireille Asselin explores her connection to the shared and unique elements of English-speaking and French-speaking culture. Premiers February 27th.
Where Do I Go?: Pianist Morgan-Paige Melbourne offers up a unique multidisciplinary performance combining piano with dance. That goes live on March 27th.
This Saturday the new recording of Rocking Horse Winner will be broadcast on Ben Heppner’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera following the live broadcast from the Met. That’s on CBC of course.
And on December 29th Margaret Atwood will be talking about AtG’s Messiah/Complex when she guest hosts BBC Radio 4’s The Today Programme. Unfortunately, as I understand it, that show runs from 0600-0900 GMT so it’s strictly for the nocturnal types in Canada.