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.
Last night the Happenstancers presented a short but extremely enjoyable Pierrot themed concert at 918 Bathurst. The major work, unsurprisingly, was Schoenberg’s melodrama Pierrot lunaire for voice and chamber ensemble. It was presented in two parts. The first fourteen poems formed the first half of the programme which closed out with the concluding seven. It was extremely well done. Danika Lorèn was an excellent choice as the voice. She has the technique for Schoenberg’s tricky sprechstimme as well as the innate musicality and sense of drama the piece needs. The standard “Pierrot ensemble” is perfectly suited for the Happenstancers typically eclectic mixing of instruments. Here we had Brad Cherwin on clarinets, Rebecca Maranis on flutes, Hee-See Yoon on violin and viola, Sarah Gans on cello and Alexander Malikov on piano. Simon Rivard conducted. Skilful playing and well timed interplay between instruments and voice made for a most satisfactory experience. Continue reading
Oscar Straus’ A Waltz Dream opened last night in a Toronto Operetta theatre production at the St. Lawrence Centre. The piece premiered in Vienna in 1907 and soon became a huge international hit with various English versions appearing quite early on. The version given by TOT appears to be a 1970s version with book by Michael Flanders, Edmund Tracey and Bernard Dunn and the music adapted and arranged by Ronald Hanmer.
Last night’s TSO program, conducted by Gustavo Gimeno, kicked off with three short pieces by Canadian composers. All were impressive. The first two; Adam Scime’s A Dream of Refuge and Bekah Simms’ Bite are reflections (to some at extent at least) on the pandemic. The Scime piece is lighter and brighter. There is uncertainty there but ultimately it seems to speak of hope. The Simms piece wis much darker with heavy percussion and blaring brass. A sense of uncertainty permeates the string writing. It’s quite disturbing. Roydon Tse’s Unrelenting Sorrow was written for those who have lost loved ones. It’s quite melodic and has strong contrasts between dramatic and more lyrical passages. Sorrowful perhaps but not unrelentingly so.
A couple more things coming up this month.
- June 17th/18th/19th Toronto Operetta Theatre are presenting Oscar Straus’ A Waltz Dream at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
- June 19th at 4.30pm Opera Revue have a Father’s day show at the Emmett Ray.
- June 24th the Happenstancers have a concert at 918 Bathurst. It’s Pierrot themed with Danika Loren singing the obvious Schoenberg work plus moon themed music by Saariaho, Sokolovic and the Saskatchewan Songbird herself. One not to miss IMHO
- June 25th at Crow’s theatre Soundstreams are presenting Noam Bierstone and guests in Percussion Theatre. It’s described as “a curated concert experience exploring the concept of instrumental theatre: the music doesn’t just accompany an action, the music is the action”
Medusa’s Children is a location shot opera film recently released by Opera Q; a Toronto based collective “dedicated to amplifying queer and trans voices”. I think this is the company’s second production following the live staged Dido and Belinda in 2019. This new piece; music by Colin McMahon, text by Charlie Petch, is also on a classical theme. In fact it follows Ovid pretty closely (at least for the back story) and of course there’s a queer twist.
Sunday, at Grace Church on the Hill, Soundstreams presented Celebrating R. Murray Schafer. It felt like a cross between a concert and a memorial service. There were no prayers but there were eulogies and Eleanor James drew the parallel between Schafer’s sources of inspiration and Pentecost; that feast of the Church having been chosen deliberately for the event.
There was lots of music of course. The afternoon was bookended by two of Schafer’s ceremonial wilderness pieces for voice and trumpet. Meghan Lindsay and Michael Fedyshyn welcomed us with the Aubade for Two Voices and bid us farewell with Departure. Both were made the more haunting from the performers being out of sight. Choir 21 with conductor David Fallis sang two sets. First came the three hymns from The Fall into Light which appropriately set texts drawn from the Manichaean tradition. There was some wonderfully precise singing here. The second set was perhaps more light hearted with Epitaph for Moonlight which was written for amateur performance and the playful Fire which, besides singing, involves banging rocks together.
Watching The Queen in Me at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre last night I thought to myself that this was probably the first time I’d heard Teiya Kasahara singing classic opera arias with an orchestra. Given how many times I’ve seen Teiya on stage that seemed really weird. And that, I suppose, is one major aspect of what this show is all about; how casting is so rigidly stereotyped that it demands that people become something other than themselves to get cast. A tall, muscular, tattooed Queen of the Night isn’t that much of a stretch but a tall, muscular tattooed Cio Cio San or Mimi is a bridge too far.
Singulières, written by Maxime Beauregard-Martin, is a French language (more or less) coproduction of Le collectif Nous sommes ici, le Théâtre Catapulte and La Bordée. It'[s currently being presented jointly by Crow’s Theatre and Théâtre français de Toronto at the Streetcar Crowsnest. It tells the stories of various Québecoises who are stlll single at a certain age. Women who would once, especially in Quebec, have been referred to as “old maids”.
My review of Nicole Lizée and Nicolas Billon’s RUR A Torrent of Light is now up on Opera Canada.
Scott Belluz as [Alex] – Photo by Elena Emer
So what do you get when you try to use music to explore The Ultimate Question of Life the Universe and Everything or at least that part of it that deals with epistemology and metaphysics and the relationship between music and text? Maybe you get something like Kate Soper’s The Understanding of All Things which consists of three works separated by two improvisatory passages.