Underwhelmed

facepalmThe COC has announced “live” performances for the balance of the 2021/22 season and colour me massively underwhelmed.  Obviously, the return to live performance is something we’ve all been waiting for but three dull revival productions of ultra-mainstream operas is not what I had hoped for.  For the record here is what’s coming up:

Puccini – Madama Butterfly – February 4th – 25th, 2022.  Tghis is the COC production that has been seen umpteen times already at the COC and it has absolutely nothing to say.  One had hoped that if and when the COC did this piece again they would come up with a new production that wasn’t so transparently colonialist.

Verdi – La Traviata – April 23rd – May 20th, 2022.  Another basically dull, traditional production though, at least, as Douglas Adams might say “mostly harmless”.

Mozart – The Magic Flute –  May 6th – 21st, 2022.  This is the production that the original director called “feminist” though anything “feminist” or, indeed, “anythingist” has escaped me on the multiple occasions I’ve seen it.

So there it is.  Looks like a “lowest common denominator” approach to luring back the traditional crowd.  It’s certainly hard to see how it helps with reaching out to new audiences or to achieving any of the bold goals of diversity, inclusion and telling stories relevant to today’s audience that were bruited so loud during lockdown.

Yom Kippur without Fascists

I’ve been following the Yiddish Glory project for a while now and this year there’s something special for Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur without Fascists surfaced in Almaty, Kazakhstan where it was written in 1945.  It fantasizes Adolf Hitler as the kapporot; a sacrificial chicken.  It has the same dark humour as most of these Yiddish songs of resistance.  There’s a great performance of it on Youtube or you can follow this link to Six Degrees Records where you can buy an audio recording or read the full lyrics.

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Opera revue again

Back to the Emmet Ray yesterday for another show by Opera Revue.  This time Dani Friesen and Claire Harris were joined by baritone Alexander Hajek which allowed for a three set show and quite a few duets.  I was really struck by how much throwing in some duets makes the whole show seem more operatic.  So what did we get?  There was a lot of Mozart, notably duets from Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, plus solo arias from both operas.  And, of course, there was Kurt Weill from Dani.  There was at least one Neapolitan songs and several musical theatre numbers (Alex looks very fetching in cat ears) and a guest singing Schumann and probably other stuff I’ve forgotten.  All in all, a suitably varied and satisfying selection.

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Confluence Concerts 2021/22

js-bachConfluence Conerts has announced its 2021/22 season with some details to be firmed up when anyone figures out what the “new normal” actually is.  First up is a presentation of the Bach suites for solo cello in conjunction with the Toronto Bach Festival.  They are being performed at Heliconian Hall and recorded for later, free, Youtube streaming on Confluence’s channel.  There will be some tickets available for the live performance but no details on that yet.  The performances are as follows:

Cello Suites No. 1 in G Major BWV 1007 and No. 3 in C Major BWV 1009
Concert September 22nd at 7pm at the Heliconian Hall
YouTube premiere October 1st
With Winona Zelenka  and Michelle Tang, cello

Cello Suites No.4 in E-flat Major BWV 1010 and No. 6 in D Major BWV 1012
Concert October 21st at 7pm at the Heliconian Hall
YouTube premiere October 29th
With Keiran Campbell, cello and Elinor Frey, violoncello piccolo

Cello Suites No. 2 in D Minor BWV 1008 and No. 5 in C Minor BWV 1011
Concert November 3rd at 7pm at the Heliconian Hall
YouTube premiere November 10th
With Andrew Downing, double bass, and Ryan Davis, viola

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Jedermann

The disc release (Blu-ray and DVD) of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Jedermann is actually a 2 for 1.  There’s a recording of a performance of the play from the 2020 Salzburg festival plus a 54 minute “docufiction” film about the history of the festival.

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Date with the Divas volume 2

Date with the Divas volume 2 is the latest Youtube offering from Opera Sustenida (Stephanie DeCiantis – soprano and film diva, Nicole Whitney Dubinsky -soprano, Daniella Theresia – mezzo and tech diva and Suzanne Yeo – piano). It’s the first of their shows that I’ve seen. It’s one of those films where everything is recorded in people’s homes and then patched together into a film and it’s as well done as anything in the genre that I’ve seen. The video editing is really good though some sections that were broadcast “live” during the initial streaming were a bit weird sonically. Fortunately that didn’t affect the music.

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La bulle

It’s not opera yet but I’ll take any live theatre I can get right now.  Last night’s show was a joint presentation by Jamii Esplanade and Théâtre Français de Toronto of David Danzon and
Carolin Lindner’s La bulle.  It’s not an easy show to describe.  There is one character; Pierrot, dressed in the traditional manner and played brilliantly by Danzon.  He inhabits a transparent dome.  Pierrot dreams his dreams wordlessly through mime, drawing, dance and even text.  He finds ways to communicate with the outside world; us, sitting in a 360 degree arrangement around the dome.  There’s music and complex lighting effects.  The show has real emotional depth and is strangely moving.  At times it’s very funny and Danzon’s agility and ability to go through what seem like complete personality changes is rather remarkable.   It’s playing at 8pm every night until September 5th in the courtyard at Berkeley Castle but I’m afraid all performances are sold out.

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Photo credit: Muriel Cavanhac

Lyrical Walküre

The thing that struck me most about the Royal Opera House’s 2018 recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre is how lyrical it is.  It’s not without excitement in the appropriate places, far from it, but there’s such lovely singing.  Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde is tender and poetic and the combo of Stuart Skelton and Emily Magee as the twin lovers is really good.  Throw in a nuanced Wotan from John Lundgren and a typically elegant performance from Sarah Connolly as Fricka and it’s really a pleasure to listen to.  Ain Anger is not so lyrical as Hunding but it’s a fine menacing performance.  Antonio Pappano and the house orchestra are equally fine.

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Royal Conservatory 2021/22

rcmThe Royal Conservatory of Music has just announced a real live season for 2021/22. Covid restrictions will likely be in place for at least the first part of the season but hopefully will ease up at some point. There’s the usual eclectic mix of classical, vocal, jazz, world music etc so I’ll just cover the classical vocal stuff which is actually pretty exciting.  Let’s go through it chronologically. Continue reading

Met in HD 2021/22

methdThere’s a Met in HD season again with ten shows starting in October.  All shows start at 12.55pm New York time.  Three out of ten performances are 21st century operas which is as surprising as it is welcome.  There are some interesting looking new productions and one or two that fit into a Met formula that doesn’t work for me usually.  And there are two remarkably venerable productions that surely are past their sell by date.  Here are my thoughts on each:

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