Prognostication

Quiet Streets St ClairBack in the summer Opera Canada asked a number of us to right a piece on our local opera scene and what was happening there that went beyond rewriting companies’ season announcements and updates.  So in July I interviewed the leadership of seven local companies ranging from the COC to Opera 5 (thanks to all the lovely people who gave me their time).  That article appeared in print in the most recent Opera Canada magazine.  It’s now available on the website.   Bear in mind that it was written back in August and that some things have happened since then.  Nonetheless I was pleased to be able to offer up what I think was asked for, which was something reasonably analytical and strategic.

News roundup

mirrormirrorTonight Essential Opera have a short livestream of a new creation.  It’s a fifteen minute piece on the theme of Snow White called Mirror, Mirror.  Words and music are by Anna Pidgorna.  It’s being screened on Youtube and Facebook at 7pm EST.

Tapestry Opera is offering a full-time, paid, multi-year professional opportunity to female-identifying and non-binary music directors and conductors in partnership with Pacific Opera Victoria and leading orchestral partner the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, collaborating with over 10 other Canadian opera companies and orchestras for national placements.  All the details on the programme and the application process are here.

The Royal Conservatory of Music have announced a metric shedload of cancellations, alterations and postponements relative to their 2020/21 season.  All the details are here.  In any event, if you werte planning on seeing anything live or via webstream from the RCM I’d double check!

Suzie Leblanc has a new website.  You can check it out here.

Telephone double bill

The third of Saturday night’s webstreams was Toronto City Opera’s double bill of Menotti’s The Telephone and Poulenc’s La voix humaine. The choice of rep makes sense in that it meant that very few people had to be assembled in the Ernest Balmer Studio where the recordings took place though it also looks a bit odd for a company that in normal times is about participation.

The Menotti is essentially a rather weak joke stretched out for half an hour. A man is trying to propose to a girl but every time he gets close to popping the question she either receives or makes a phone call. I thought it was a bit feeble the first time I saw it and it doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t help that it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to marry this utterly boring girl except, perhaps, her utterly banal suitor. I guess the basic problem is that anything trying to be “realistic” from the US in the 50s and 60s is almost bound to be dull as just about any interesting aspect of human life was off limits due to various kinds of censorship. Anyway, I think TCO got as much out of the piece as there is to be got. The contemporary updating had its witty moments and both Nicole Dubinsky and Johnathan Kirby; backed up by Ivan Jovanovic gave strong performances in the singing and acting departments.

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Improvisation as Life

There was another not entirely conventional show last night though, on account of being singular, I had to wait until this morning to watch it.  It was Tapestry Opera’s Improvisation as Life featuring pianist Robi Botos improvising on the Bösendorfer Imperial while Art Battle champion Moses Salihou painted.  It’s a very interesting concept and another example of a company creating a show that translates well to on-line delivery.  I’m not well versed in piano improvisation but I found it interesting and enjoyable and was somewhat surprised (I don’t know why really) that Botos made use of extended piano techniques as well as the keyboard.  The art work was pretty cool too.

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Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning is a new musical from Loose Tea Theatre Company. The book and lyrics are by Lezlie Wade and the music by Scott Christian. It is written for five female actors and focusses on the life of Amelia Earhart and the true story of the teenage girl who received Amelia’s final distress signal. The complete work is something like 90 minutes long but last night we got to see a 30 minute film adaptation of the first part of the piece.

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Der Prinz von Homburg

Der Prinz von Homburg is a 1960 opera by Hans Werner Henze setting a libretto by Ingeborg Bachmann based on an 1811 play by Heinrich von Kleist.  The essential context is Henze and Bachmann’s rejection of German militarism and authoritarianism that they believed was being built back into the new German Federal Republic.  It has been enjoying something of a revival in the last few years, perhaps as a result of the resurgence of the Fascist/nationalist right, with multiple productions in Germany including one in Stuttgart in 2019 which was recorded for video.

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On the web…

emanikolovskayaI think my best recent discovery on the web has been Wigmore Hall’s Youtube channel.  There’s a wealth of material in various genres but, from my point of view, the real glory are the song recitals.  I’ve seen particularly good ones from Gerry Finley and Sarah Connolly and, more recently, really well thought out programmes from Allan Clayton and Stephanie Wake-Edwards and from Ema Nikolovska.  Many readers will remember her “virtual” Toronto Summer Music recital a few months ago.  This one is just as good!

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Rota double bill

Nino Rota was a composer and academic perhaps best known for his film music. He wrote the scores for all of Fellini’s films and for the first two Godfather movies. He also wrote several operas; most of them comic. Two of his one actors were performed and recorded at the 2017 Reate Festival.

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Covid fan tutte

Covid fan tutte is the best opera thing I’ve seen come out of the pandemic yet.  It’s from Finnish National Opera and it uses the music of Così fan tutte (mostly) and a new libretto (in Finnish natch) to poke fun at every aspect of the current situation.  To quote the blurb:

On stage, singers are rehearsing Die Walküre, when they are suddenly interrupted. As management has been laid off and the news of a global virus spreads rapidly, the Wagnerians are suddenly instructed to perform a modern satire on the situation.

It’s fully staged with a socially distanced orchestra and a virtual chorus.  There appears to have been some sort of live audience in the house.  They weren’t mucking about here.  Both Karita Mattila and Esa-Pekka Salonen are involved.  Bottom line; it’s very well done and genuinely funny with a few really sad bits like where a man sings an aria to his mother to the closed window of the old people’s home.  There are subtitles for those whose Finnish isn’t up to it.

You can find it on Youtube on the Operavision channel.  Brexit supporters should stay away as Operavision is funded by those nasty cultured foreigners, the EU.

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