The panel discussion follow up to the presentation I described in an earlier post took place yesterday afternoon. It was an interesting panel; a dramaturg, a lighting designer, a couple of directors, a singer, the head of a small regional opera company etc. They were all interesting, thoughtful and well, nice, people but what was clearly missing was anyone who had ever held a position of influence in a major North American opera company or even anyone of contrarian views so the discussion did feel a bit tame.
The COC has announced a virtual (almost) fall season. It’s mainly community outreach with an emphasis on young people which is entirely consistent with conversations I’ve had with the COC (and indeed other companies).
In November there will be a three day festival of concerts from the Richard Bradshaw amphitheatre backed up by interviews etc.
Yesterday saw the first part of Opera America’s webinar Managing the Inherited Repertoire. It consisted of a half hour talk by Bernard Foccroulle, formerly boss at La Monnaie and the Aix Festival and will be followed up by a panel discussion tomorrow at 3pm. I think you can still view the talk on Opera America’s Youtube channel.
Der Messias is the German version of Handel’s Messiah as arranged by Mozart. The translation dates from 1775 and is by Klopstock and Ebeling drawing heavily on the Lutheran Bible. My German isn’t good enough to say how “archaic” it sounds to a modern German speaker but it certainly seems to be quite singable. In any event it was presented in Salzburg during this year’s Mozartwoche in a staged version by Robert Wilson. The arrangement adds a substantial wind section and changes the voice parts in places. For example Doch wer mag entraten (But who may abide) is given to the bass rather than one of the high voices.
We are starting to see full length, made for streaming content appearing rather than the rather variable quality, mainly amateur efforts of a few months ago. Here a couple of examples:
Jeff Crompton’s new chamber opera based on the life of jazz musician Buddy Bolden was due to premiere in Atlanta in June. It’s now been recorded and mixed with visuals for an online release on October 16th. It’s a 45 minute piece for five singers and saxophone trio. More details here. I think this one is free. I checked out bits of the free press preview and it seems interesting and well produced.
Decameron Opera Coalition; a collective of nine smaller opera companies in the US have come up with an innovative idea for a series of opera evenings. It’s based on Boccaccio’s Decameron, which tells of ten people who, in time of plague, isolate themselves and tell stories (some of them quite naughty as I recall). So, in our time of plague, each company has created a short opera plus there’s a collective intro and ending. They will go online on four Friday nights in October (9th/16th/23rd/30th) and stay available for a while. This one isn’t free. A ticket is $15 (US presumably) and covers all four shows. More details.
Vladimir Jurowski is a notable Mahler interpreter so a new recording of Mahler’s great symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde is welcome; especially when Jurowski’s own Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin is combined with soloists as fine as Sarah Connolly and Robert Dean Smith.
What one gets is some superbly lyrical and detailed orchestral playing. It doesn’t emphasise the dramatic but it’s exciting enough and “big” enough to tax the soloists in places. I’m always a bit torn about whether I prefer the majesty of Mahler’s original scoring or the greater intimacy of Schoenberg’s chamber reduction. Certainly the full orchestral version requires really top notch soloists and this recording has them. Connolly is especially good and sounds absolutely ravishing in the Abschied. She seems totally in control with delicate singing, great articulation of the text and no sense of strain. Robert Dean Smith sounds suitably ardent and is very clear though showing some signs of strain in Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde but then who doesn’t?
Melly Still’s production of Dvorák’s Rusalka, recorded at Glyndebourne in 2019 got rave reviews and, judging by the audience reaction on the recording. was enthusiastically received in the house. Unfortunately I don’t think it works all that well on video despite some rather stunning stage pictures and generally strong performances.
It’s not easy to figure out how to stage Kurt Weill’s Street Scene. On the one hand it’s a gritty story of violence and poverty and hopelessness. On the other hand it’s got classic Broadway elements; romance, glitzy song and dance numbers etc. It’s also, cleverly and deliberately, musically all over the place with just about every popular American musical style of the period incorporated one way or another.
Canadian bassist (and much more) George Koller is giving a solo recital in aid of St. Mike’s COVID-19 fund. It’s resented by Canzona Chamber Players on their Youtube channel and by the looks of it fills the slot for this year’s Elizabeth Krehm memorial concert. It’s on September 27th at 7pm and it’s free but, of course, donations to St. Mike’s are encouraged.
Toronto’s Upper Canada Choristers and their Latin ensemble Cantemos will present music from Latin America in a concert titled Inti Ukana: A Latin American Tapestry. This was originally scheduled for May as a public performance but will now be live-streamed, with some pre-recorded elements, It’s on Friday, October 2nd at 7:30 p.m. It will be accessible through the choir’s website,