Slim pickings

wibble2As you probably now theatres are closed in Ontario until the end of January and, it seems, organisations are taking a very cautious approach to February. It’s not very heroic but given the flakiness of the Ontario government it’s understandable. The COC’s Madama Butterfly is to be an on-line stream and a whole raft of performances at the RCM are postponed or rescheduled. The only confirmed shows of vocal interest at this point that I’m aware of in February are the Stewart Goodyear concert on February 9th and the Opera Atelier All is Love on February 19th and 20th; both at Koerner.

Voices of Mountains

The COC’s latest on-line offering is now available on-line.  It’s called Voices of Mountains and the video is just shy of an hour long.  Only about half of that is music though.  The rest is introductions, artist statements and a 10 minute piece about the Land Acknowledgement installation created for the lobby of the Four Season Centre by Rebecca Cuddy and Julie McIsaac.  It looks very interesting but, of course, one can’t visit it.

voicesofmountains

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Dieses Küß der ganzen Welt!

CDIt’s July 29th 1951; the opening night of the first Bayreuth Festival since the end of the war.  Noted anti-Nazi Wilhelm Furtwängler will conduct the Festival Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from the Festspielhaus.  It will be broadcast live by Süddeutsche Rundfunk(*) and will be relayed by stations in Germany, Austria, France and Sweden.  You are sitting in front of your valve radio because commercial transistor models are not yet on the market.  You can’t record it to listen to little because tape reorders are almost as rare in 1951 as transistor radios.

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Songs for a mad world

5029385997656There’s no shortage of pandemic inspired music out there but I figured I wanted something that more closely evoked the sheer madness of life in Ontario right now.  So, I turned to a 1969 piece by my fellow Manc Peter Maxwell Davies.  It’s his Eight Songs for a Mad King inspired by that nutty old Hanoverian George III.  The genesis of the piece is quite complex.  It involves a music box, once owned by the king but by 1968 in the possession of the historian Steven Runciman.  Once used by the king in an attempt to teach bullfinches to sing, it provides the inspiration for the eight “tunes” that make up the Eight Songs.  The libretto is largely drawn from the king’s own words and other contemporary sources.

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All the news that fits…

stopThere is news.  The COC has cancelled “in person” performances of Madama Butterfly.  Instead it will be “made available as a free digital presentation to current 2021/2022 COC subscription holders who are continuing to support Canadian opera through the donation, exchange, or credit of tickets.”  How that works I have no idea.

Also at the COC, they are taking a rather interesting approach to land acknowledgements.  You can learn more about it in this ten minute video.

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Davidsen and Andsnes do Greig

If one is a young Norwegian singer or collaborative pianist Greig’s songs offer a particular challenge.  It’s music that one grows up with and the canonical recordings will be familiar.  It’s a particular challenge too because, in some ways, Grieg’s approach to song is very modern.  In particular, his approach to the piano part is quite different from classical German lieder.  The piano rarely accompanies the singer.  Its role is independent and often seems primary.  Finding an approach that works then for both singer and pianist is non-trivial.  Certainly treating the works as “vocal showpieces” won’t work as it would completely unbalance the music.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like March 2020

closedSo, it’s cancellation time again.  Everything is off as far as “live” is concerned until at least January 26th in Ontario.  That means that a whole raft of concerts at the RCM are postponed/off including Gould’s Wall and Gerry Finley.  Morgan Paige-Melbourne and Eve Egoyan are going ahead as livestreams.  Check the RCM website for details.  The COC has suspended single ticket sales for Madama Butterfly until things become clearer.  Meanwhile the rest of the world, mostly, is getting on with it.  I’m told it’s called the 0 micron variant because that’s roughly the diameter of Doug Ford’s brain.

Titon et l’Aurore

Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville’s Titon et l’Aurore is another member of that rather long list of operas that were well received in their day and then totally disappeared from the rep.  It’s interesting as an example of what was happening on the French opera stage between the retirement of Rameau and the revolution (it premiered in 1753) and because it played an important role in the “querelle des bouffons”.

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L’occasione fa il ladro

L’occasione fa il ladro is a rather typical early Rossini piece (he was only nineteen when he wrote it).  The plot is extremely silly but it’s quite short (90 minutes) and the music is tuneful and well crafted.  To cut a short story even shorter, Count Alberto is off to collect his bride, Berenice, who he has never seen.  On the way his luggage gets mixed up with that of the chancer Don Parmenione, who decides t take the opportunity to grab the bride for himself.  Meanwhile Berenice has swapped places with her maid Ernestina so she can check Alberto out at a safe distance.  Inevitably confusion ensues but it all ends happily with Alberto paired off with Berenice and Parmenio with Ernestina, who, of course, is not really a maid at all.

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Krehm memorial concert

Inevitably, this year’s Krehm memorial concert was presented virtually. It premiered last night and is available on the Canzona Chamber Players Youtube channel.  It’s in two parts.  In the first Rachel Krehm is the soloist in the Schoenberg arrangement of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.  I initially thought that Evan Mitchell’s tempi were on the slow side but they grew on me and Rachel sings expressively and rather beautifully.  I like the chamber arrangement of these pieces precisely because the singer doesn’t have to force her voice over a big orchestra and can be more Lieder like.

rk - mahler

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