This is not intended as a a political blog though, art being what it is, it sometimes is. That said, these are not normal times and sometimes a political stand has to be taken. 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.
Perceptual Archaeology (or How to Travel Blind), which stars Alex Bulmer assisted by Enzo Massara, is a show about blindness and coping with it. It opened in the Studio Theatre at Crow’s last night. Going to see it involved confronting my worst nightmare and so I sat near the door in case needed to escape (thanks Crow’s). So what’s it about and how does it work?
Il Turco in Pesaro
Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia isn’t performed (or recorded) all that often despite being well constructed and amusing in a thoroughly silly way. Perhaps it’s just too difficult/expensive to cast? It requires a bass or bass-baritone of great flexibility plus a top notch Rossini soprano and two tenors with genuine high notes plus several other soloists. Who knows? Anyway it was given at the Rossini Festival at Pesaro in 2016 and recorded for video.
Opera Atelier 2023/24
Opera Atelier have announced a two show Toronto season for 2023/24. The fall show is Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice which will play at the Elgin Theatre from October 26th to November 1st. This is the 1774 version with Orphée sung by an haut-contre. Colin Ainsworth should be just about ideal. He’s partnered by Mireille Asselin, also pretty much ideal as Eurydice. Anna Julia David sings Amour. The orchestra is Tafelmusik and the chorus will consist of Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and the Nathaniel Dett Chorale.
Pomegranate at the COC
Almost exactly four years after Kye Marshall and Amanda Hale’s Pomegranate played at Buddies in Bad Times in a production by Michael Mori it reappeared at the COC in expanded form in a production by Jennifer Tarver. The basic plot hasn’t changed much so I’m not going to repeat what I wrote about that in 2019. The other changes are, though, quite extensive and I’m not convinced they are improvements.
I’ve been following developments in use of technology in the theatre for a few years now and, to be honest, I’ve seen lots of theory and not a lot of practice though Tapestry’s RUR: A Torrent of Light did use motion capture. The Turandot recorded at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2019 takes it to a whole new level though.
Debauchery at the Dakota
So on a grungy corner of Dundas and Ossington lies a grungy cellar dive; the Dakota Tavern. It’s not an obvious place to do opera though a mash up of opera and burlesque is more plausible. And so that’s what we got from the Opera Revue crew (Alexander Hajek, Danie Friesen and Claire Harris) and four burlesque dancers.
The music was appropriately chosen; some Phantom, Don Giovanni, Carmen, some Weill plus show tunes. Basically mine the repertory for stuff that is a bit edgy and plays with ideas of sexual consent or lack of it. Ironically the goody bag that was raffled off at the interval include, apparently, an Armadildo. I say ironically because I had spent my lunchtime with the cast and crew of Colleen Wagner’s new play Armadillos which is also (at least in part) about sexual consent or lack of it. Continue reading
Spungin and Soloviev
It was the “farewell to the Ensemble Studio” show for Vlad Soloviev and Jonah Spungin yesterday and they put on a great show enhanced by an informal, witty approach. Jonah’s singing was excellent. I especially liked his take on Wolf’s “Der Feuerreiter” and a set of Swedish songs by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger. He clearly has power to spare and can be subtle too. Nice going.
A Left Coast
A Left Coast is baritone Tyler Duncan and pianist Erika Switzer’s tribute to British Columbia and its music. Seven composers with birthdates ranging from 1908 to 1985 are featured on the disk. BC is a young country as far as western classical music is concerned though, of course, it has rich artistic traditions stretching far back into the mists of the north west.
It’s quite varied and, inevitably, I like some sets more than others. My top pick is Leslie Uyeda’s Plato’s Angel songs which set poems by Lorna Crozier. There’s a deep melancholy in the text that’s reflected in a dark, somewhat atonal musical idiom. I also really liked Jeffrey Ryan’s Everything Already Lost; the longest set on the record, setting quite sonically/musically evocative texts by Jan Zwicky with quite varied sonorities mixing elements of minimalism and onomatopoeia, especially in the piano part.
The final concert of this year’s Toronto Bach Festival took place at Eastminster United Church yesterday afternoon. It offered two of the cantatas Bach wrote in Leipzig in 1723; Die Elenden sollen essen and Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes Each is written in two parts which, originally would have bookended a sermon (mercifully absent yesterday). Each begins with a choral setting of a biblical verse and proceeds via recits on arias on related texts. The second half of each starts with a Sinfonia and finishes with a chorale based on a Lutheran hymn.
All the Diamonds
Confluence Concerts last show of the season; All the Diamonds, was dedicated to the night sky. It’s not easy to find new things to say about Confluence, unless there’s a new work or sometging on the programme. Every show is different but there are elements in common. The styles of the music vary from pop, to singer-songwriter, to jazz to classical to spoken word and the performance styles are equally varied and not always what one expects for the piece in question. So for instance, Don McLean’s “Starry Night” got the Suba Sankaran/Dylan Bell two part a cappella treatment and the traditional Ladino number “Yo menamori d’un aire” got full on jazz vocals from Patricia ‘Callaghan with instrumentals from Larry Beckwith n violin and Andrew Downing on bass. It was fun, varied and joyous and no two bits of the 23 item line up was quite like anything else.