Today’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured Lucia Cesaroni and Alysson McHardy with Rachel Andrist at the piano and Iain Scott narrating in a program that wasn’t, as expected, all Rossini. Rather it was music written by and for six of the women in Rossini’s life in a program inspired by Patricia Morehead. So what we got was plenty of Rossini, some Bellini, some Clara Schumann and music composed by the ladies themselves. I’m moderately familiar with the music of Pauline Viardot (younger sister of Maria Malibran) but I had never heard anything composed by Malibran, Isabella Colbran, Pauline Sabatier, Giuditta Pasta or Adelina Patti. As it turns out all were perfectly competent song composers and it was good to hear some rather rare material.
So what of the performances? It was very enjoyable on a number of levels. Alysson McHardy is pretty well known on the Toronto scene for her richly coloured mezzo. She displayed her talents this afternoon in the rather lovely Dolente immagine di Fille mia by Bellini, in a very dramatic account of Clara Schumann’s setting of Heine’s Lorelei as well as the rather sophisticated Nocturne by Sabatier. Lucia Cesaroni isn’t as well known in Toronto. She should be. She sings just about everywhere else! It was lovely to hear her again. She combines a quite dark hued lower and middle range with a bright but warm top. It’s not the fashionable Germanically steely tone that seems to be cast more often here but I like it a lot. Anyway, she sang a range of material in French, Italian and German with equal felicity. I particularly enjoyed Schumann’s setting of Liebst du um Schönheit which was sung with excellent German and great sincerity. Sombre forêt from Rossini’s Guillaume Tell was spot on the money and his crazy fast La danza was lots of fun. She’s not just a good expressive singer, she’s emotionally generous. It’s clear that she’s putting her whole self into the performance and that communicates to the audience.
So both singers, individually, were really rather good but what made this show were the duets. The voices blend well. Lucia’s darkish middle seems to fit nicely with Allyson’s classically mezzo timbre. They also obviously enjoy working together. The fun is infectious whether in the long, quite dramatic (but fun) Rossini piece (Les amants de Seville) or the rather breathless and silly Venetian dialect piece, also by Rossini, La regata veneziana. I’ve really only skimmed over a very good program. They are threatening to take it on tour though and, if they do, and it comes your way don’t miss it.
The encore was not the expected Cat Duet, as I well knew, as various parties have been taking the Mick ever since I predicted it. Let it be known that Jane raised the Paw of Doom when I told her.
Rachel Andrist accompanied throughout with her usual skill and Iain Scott provided a linking commentary which was informative and decently brief, as introductions should be!
We also got word of the 2017/18 series from Monica Whicher. If I caught this all correctly there are three concerts:
- On November 11th 2018 Joyce El-Khouri and Beste Kalender are up with a show called Passions aux voyages. Expect some middle-eastern inspired fare!
- On January 27th 2019 it’s Lucia Cervoni (not to be confused with etc) and Michael Colvin with a program including Britten’s Winter Words.
- Finally, on April 14th 2019 it’s Monica Whicher with harpist Judy Loman with Mahler, Strauss and, apparently, some folk song settings.
This series is really one part of the Toronto music scene that should not be missed.