Well there wasn’t actually an open fire at Koerner Hall last night, though one would have been very welcome on a very cold Toronto evening, but there were plenty of old chestnuts at the Great Songs of Italy concert given by the Ontario Philharmonic Orchestra under Marco Parisotto with tenor soloist Richard Margison. The concert consisted of a mixture of opera extracts; vocal and instrumental, a couple of Neapolitan songs and Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien. It was a bit like eating one of those giant Toblerone bars all at once but I don’t suppose anyone really expected it to be any different and the audience for the most part loved it.
Mr. Margison was in very good voice. Mostly he did what he does best which is to sing with great power for fairly shoet stretches but he also showed some versatility. We got the likes of O sole mio and Vesti la giubba and of course Nessun dorma at the end (encored) but we also got a surprisingly nimble La Danza. The orchestra was less compelling. Partly it was just too big for the relatively intimate space of Koerner Hall exacerbated by a tendency to go for volume and excitement rather than subtlety. The percussion section, in particular, seemed to want to break all previous volume records. Still, they made an OK fist of standards like the overtures to Don Pasquale and La forza del destino and the intro to Tosca. I didn’t think the Tchaikovsky was so successful, tending to like focus or direction. I don’t think Maestro Parisotto’s conducting style helped. He’s very flamboyant and seems to want to make a visual statement to the exclusion of the simple stuff like giving the players the beat.
All that said, I think the audience got what they came for and complaining it wasn’t like Jurowski conducting Janáček is a bit beside the point. It got a standing ovation (hardly a rarity in Toronto these days) and, much more unusually, one that didn’t stop dead the moment the principals left the stage.