virginiaIt’s pretty Grimm in Toronto these days.  Friday will see the 500th performance of Dean Burry’s 1999 opera for children The Brothers Grimm.  Now, 500 performances for any recent opera is pretty remarkable.  500 performances for a Canadian work is extraordinary.  Anyway, in the lead up to Friday there are a number of events scheduled including a concert yesterday lunchtime in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with a Grimm theme.

Eric Domville introduced the music.  He gave us a disquisition on the Grimm brothers, philology, the Great German Dictionary, folk tales and the oral tradition, his childhood, Romanticism as a reaction to Enlightenment, the plot of several folk tales in their English, French and German incarnations and a potted summary of the cultural, political and religious state of Germany in the mid 19th century.  It was perhaps just a teeny bit more than one resally needed to explain three arias from Hansel and Gretel and one from Königskinder. 

andreaThe arias were great.  Soprano Virginia Hatfield and mezzo Andrea Ludwig did a cheeky version of Brother Dear, Come Dance with Me and a lovely lyrical version of the Evening Prayer while tenor Michael Barrett launched into an utterly manic version of the Witch’s Aria that rivalled the late Philip Langridge for sheer fun and far outdid him in athleticism.  Virginia rounded out this set with a pretty version of Vater, Mutter!.

barrettMore, mercifully briefer, exposition from Domville took us into a performance of Schumann’s Kinderszenen by pianist Jenna Douglas.  It’s rare we get to hear the Ensemble Studio accompanists as solo artists so this was very welcome.  It was a fine, sensitive, reading of the piece and a real pleasure to listen to.

In the third part of the programme we got a beautiful performance of the rather weird lullabye Schuh-schuhu… es fallen dem König die Augen zu from Orff’s Die Kluge sung by Andrea and a duet from Burry’s The Brothers Grimm sung by Virginia and Michael.  I want to hear more of the Burry, which I will on Friday.  On the basis of one aria it doesn’t seem to be overly challenging (it’s a work for children!) but it seems to have some interesting things going on.

The programme wrapped up with three songs from classic Disney fairy tale movies which was amusing enough though I always feel a bit weird listening to really good singers with genuinely operatic voices going to town on, for example, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.

All photos by Tracy Kay.

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