There comes a time

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Flag_of_Ukraine.svgThis 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.

Late August/early September

Ifallcolourst’s still pretty quiet but there are some things still going on:

August 16th to 20th, the National Ballet has free performances at Harbourfront incorporating a number of partners and an eclectic mix of dance styles.  Details.

August 28th at pm in the Music Garden at Harbourfront Lawrence Wiliford and PhoeNX Ensemble are performing Alec Roth’s Songs in Time of War.  This one is free and outdoors so “weather permitting”. Continue reading

Falstaff as farce

Verdi’s Falstaff, of course, is a farce so there’s no reason why a director shouldn’t treat it as one but all three of the other productions I’ve seen in the last few years have transposed it to the 1950s and put a spin on it.  Sven-Eric Bechtolf, in his production for the 2021 Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, just doesn’t do that.  It’s a 1590s (ish) setting and it’s played very broad.  There are big costumes, big gestures, entrances and exits and characters “hidden in plain view”.  It could be Dario Fo or Brian Rix.

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Gould’s Wall

It was March 2017 and I was interviewing composer Brian Current over lunch.  He mentioned having seen Geoff Sirett bouldering on the wall of the Royal Conservatory atrium and how he had an idea for a site specific opera based on the life of Glenn Gould.  Eventually this became Gould’s Wall with a libretto by Liza Balkan.  Announced and rescheduled more than once due to COVID it premiered last night under the auspices of Tapestry Opera and the conservatory’s 21C series.

*Lauren Pearl and Roger Honeywell _ Gould_s Wall _ Tapestry Opera _ Photo by Dahlia Katz(3)

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600

It’s taken from late October 2018 to move from 500 video recordings in the archive to 600.  So that’s 2-3 recordings per month which sounds about right.  It’s slower than in the past for two reasons.  There just isn’t as much historic material I haven’t already seen and the rate of new releases, unsurprisingly, slowed down quite a bit during the pandemic.

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Make Brabant Great Again

Yuval Sharon’s Lohengrin in 2018 at the Bayreuth Festival was the first production there by an American director and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there are echoes of contemporary events in the US in the show.  Specifically Sharon’s Brabant is a conformist theocracy in which society has regressed technologically.  Some of the action takes place in and around a prominently placed disused electrical installation of some kind.  The Brabanters are cowardly and subservient, initially to Telramund and then, equally, to Lohengrin.  The advent of a charismatic leader. does not necessarily equate to liberation or full citizenship.  Sharon also claims in his director’s notes that the real dissenter is Ortrud and that it is her actions that liberate Elsa and Gottfried.  Whether the staging supports this is, I think, questionable.

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Nordic Voices and Marion Newman

The Gryphon Trio pulled out of Wednesday night’s Toronto Summer Music concert for, one supposes, the usual reason.  This forced a reorganisation of the concert.  Elliot Britton’s new piece was cut and instead we got an extended set from the Nordic Voices as the first part of the concert.  Actually the first piece was for a very extended Nordic Voices.  Andrew Balfour’s Omaa Bindig supplemented the vocal sextet with Marion Newman and Jamie Parker (piano) plus a number of string players and voices lined up down the sides of Walter Hall.  It’s one of those soundscape works that envelops you in a variety of sounds and techniques.  I wish I could find the text but I can’t (surtitles used last night as they have been all through TSM… yay!)

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Inspirations

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music concert at Koerner Hall featured two works played by the TSM Festival Orchestra conducted by Nicolas Ellis .  The first was Keiko Devaux’ Arras.  It’s a sort of tone poem for chamber orchestra.  The base material is drawn from Keiko’s family’s musical and other heritage; agriculture, weaving, plainsong, Buddhist chant, chansons, Japanese-American pop and so on.  Samples are rewoven, looped, distorted etc and mixed to form a “tapestry” (hence the title).  The effect is quite hypnotic and rather soothing though there’s not much to get a “handle” on, which may be the point.

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The Americas

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music offering in Walter Hall was American themed in the broadest sense.  The New Orford Quartet kicked things off with three pieces for string quartet.  The first was Piazzolla’s Tango Ballet in Bragato’s arrangement for string quartet.  It’s kind of tango/jazz fusion and great fun.  Jessie Montgomery’s Strum is a sort of homage to the southern American tradition of a different kind of string instrument.  Lots of complex pizzicato and other effects.  Carmen Braden’s Raven Conspiracy is a three movement work for spoken voice and quartet dealing with both the mythical and biological raven.  It’s playful and extremely virtuosic.  I was struck by the fact that the New Orfords are not just a very fine ensemble but a very flexible one.  Nothing seems to faze them!

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Pierrot on film

Last month I posted about a Pierrot themed concert including Danika Lorèn singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with the Happenstancers.  Now they have released films of five of the songs studio recordings – not from the concert).  They are very artsy black and white movies with the texts included and I like them a lot.  They can be found on the Happenstancers Youtube channel as five separate films or as one continuous movie.

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August

As usual it’s pretty quiet.  Here’s a few thlaurenonthewallings I am aware of.

July 31st – Opera Revue @ Castro’s Lounge, 3:00pm-6:00pm. PWYC

Summer Opera Lyric Theatre has a short season at the Alumnae Theatre on Berkeley Street.  There are three shows: (at 8pm unless otherwise specified)

  • Menotti’s The Consul – July 29th, August 3rd (2pm), 4th and 6th.
  • Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel – July 30th, August 2nd, 6th (2pm) and 7th (2pm)
  • Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – July 30th (2pm) and  31st (2pm), August 3rd and 8th.

August 4th to 12th in the atrium at the Royal Conservatory it’s Tapestry’s production of Brian Current’s Gould’s Wall. As of time of writing all performances are sold out.

And a bit further out Iain Scott is organising a tour to Dresden in March to see the Decker/Thielemann Ring.  Details are on his website.  Giving advance notice because apparently numbers for this need to be confirmed by August 22nd.