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.
More shows to enjoy…
- October 11th to November 6th at Crow’s Theatre it’s Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. “During the chaos of the 2003 American occupation of Iraq the lives of two American marines intersect with an Iraqi gardener as they search through the rubble of war for friendship, redemption, and a toilet seat made of gold.”
- October 26th at 8pm at Koerner Hall Philippe Jaroussky is appearing with Ensemble Artaserse. It’s a rare chance to hear somewhat controversial countertemor Jaroussky sing with orchestra in an ideal venue. The concert includes works by a range of baroque composers. Some of the material is relatively familiar; “Cara sposa” from Rinaldo for example, but much is by less well known composers such as Hasse and Ferrandini. Artaserse Ensemble is a leading period instrument band that, besides Jaroussky, has appeared with such singers as Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl.
- October 27th – 30th at Alliance Française it’s Tapestry’s Tapestry Briefs: Les Shorts qui chantent. This will showcase scenes created at the very first bi-lingual LibLab. Direction is by Tim Albery.
- October 26th to November 12th at Hart House Theatre, Howland Company and Hart House Theatre have a modern adaptation by Paolo Santalucia of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.
- November 3rd at 5.30pm it’s Centre Stage at the Four Season’s Centre, live for the first time in a while. It’s the usual format; cocktails and snacks, a competition for aspiring voices and, for the well heeled, an on-stage dinner.
If you are buying tickets look out for deals. There’s a fair bit of discounting going on. Some shows have clearly sold very well but others not so much. The post pandemic bounce back looks a bit anaemic right now.
Tapestry Opera have just announced the upcoming 2022/23 season from their new secret HQ location. It’s exciting and looks much like a Tapestry pre-plague season. There are two brand new operas plus old favourites like Tapestry Briefs, Songbook and so on.
Opera Sustenida was started during the pandemic and came to my attention because of a couple of well produced on-line shows. Feeling very strongly that it’s time to move back to live performance, and not seeing much yet from the smaller opera companies, I could hardly overlook Opera Sustenida’s show, even if I might not have chosen Verdi’s Il Trovatore for my first go at a live production.
Confluence Concerts opened their season yesterday at 918 Bathurst with a concert featuring a new work by Ian Cusson and André Alexis. We’ll come to that because before it there was about 45 minutes of music doing what Confluence does; the relatively unexpected. There were arrangements for various combinations of voices and instruments of songs by the likes of Kate Bush, Coldplay and Neil Young. There was an instrumental version of Bruce Cockburn’s Pacing the Cage (Larry Beckwith – violin, Andrew Downing – bass) and a Mozart violin sonata (Beckwith and Cusson) plus an intriguing percussion solo by Bevis Ng and more. It featured the usual suspects; Larry Beckwith, Andrew Downing, Suba Sankaran, Dylan Bell and Patricia O’Callaghan plus Messrs Cusson and Ng and it was fun.
Soundstreams opened their season on Wednesday night at Koerner Hall with a concert of modern music for string orchestra, electronics, percussion and chorus. The first, and most substantial work, was Paul Frehner’s LEX, being given its world premiere. It sets diverse texts; quotes from Einstein, Newton’s laws of motion in the original Latin[1}, fragments of the Old testament in Hebrew, extensive passages from Michael Symmons Roberts’ Corpus etc.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel is a pretty weird opera. It’s a satire on Nicholas II’s performance as tsar written just after the disastrous 1905 war with Japan and due to entirely unsurprising trouble with the censors it wasn’t performed in the composer’s life time. As you may imagine, a production of it by Barrie Kosky doesn’t make it any less weird. Kosky’s production was recorded at Opéra de Lyon in May 2021 and there are still some COVID artefacts. The chorus, for instance, is masked. But mostly it feels like a “normal” production.
In another nod to normality the COC’s free concert series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre kicked off with the traditional concert with the members of the Ensemble Studio. It was reasonably well attended, which is good news. But unlike previous years one didn’t need to be there an hour early to get a seat. Which is not so good news. I’m really curious to see when and if we start to get back to pre-plague audiences.
For me in previous years, this concert has been about taking stock; an opportunity to reflect on which members of the ES have progressed and how. Yesterday was much harder as I’ve seen little of any of them (live at least) for two and a half years. Some things though stood out. Midori Marsh, who kicked off the show with “Caro nome” has matured quite a lot. She’s always had a terrific voice but here she showed as a much more polished and poised performer. Alex Hetherington is also something of a known quality with her excellent 2021 Norcop Prize recital one of the better streamed events of the pandemic. She gets bonus points for singing “Lord, to Thee Each Night” from Handel’s Theodora. It’s a highly charged and technically awkward piece that demonstrated her technique and artistic sensibility nicely. Continue reading
The Leader and other works is a new record of music by Karim Al-Zand. The most substantial piece is the one act chamber opera The Leader based on Ionesco’s 1955 play Le Maître. A reporter and two devoted fans follow the Leader wherever he goes mesmerised by his often absurd antics. A young couple is gradually drawn into the fascination.
The Leader does ridiculous things. he dances with a hedgehog. He has his trousers pressed in public. Finally it’s revealed that he no head. Instead he has “genius”. None of this shakes the loyalty of his followers. One imagines that Ionesco had the European dictators of the 1930s in mind but, of course, one can substitute whichever half absurd, half sinister populist neo-Fascist one chooses.
The Shape of Home is a show about the life and works of Al Purdy currently being presented by the Festival Players in the Studio Theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest. Actually I think it’s about a lot more than Al Purdy. It does tell his story and use his poems as song material but in the creative process something a bit magical happened. It was created during lockdown using Zoom with the creator/participants messaging back and forth with ideas, snippets of songs and (mostly dark) thoughts. The creative process must have been gruelling and at times disheartening but the final result is a show of high energy, and humour. But above all it’s life and art affirming. Performed in the tiny Studio Theatre it’s also very intimate. For the first time since the theatres reopened I felt I had got my old life back.
Scarlatti’s Griselda is based on a story from the Decameron. Gualtiero, king of Sicily, has married Griselda, a shepherdess. The people are upset that the king has married beneath him and are getting stroppy. Gualtiero sets out to prove Griselda a worthy consort by testing her constancy. He repudiates Griselda and sends her back to shepherding while arranging to marry an Apulian princess Constanza, who both he and Corrado, duke of Apulia, know to be his daughter by Griselda. It’s complicated by one Ottone who is infatuated by Griselda and Roberto, son of Corrado, who is in love with Costanza, who returns his feelings. Griselda is put through various humiliating trials in which she repeatedly shows her devotion to Gualtiero. Eventually the people recognise her virtue and all is restored. One notable thing, unlike his predecessor Cavalli, Scarlatti doesn’t inject any incongruous or comic passages into the opera. It’s all deadpan serious.