Yesterday’s concert in the RBA was a sneak preview of the material for a longer workshop/performance in the Ernest Balmer Studio on Saturday night. The five works involved and the background are covered in this post.
We got excerpts from all five works with Jennifer Szeto at the piano and various combinations of Suzanne Rigden, Kristin Hoff and Lindsay Connolly singing. There were also brief introductions to each piece from the creative teams. What struck me most was how different the pieces were but how they seemed to reflect regional differences in musical expectations across Canada. For example, the two works from Quebec both used extended/prepared piano with a bunch of extended vocal techniques in Margareta Jeric’s Suites d’une ville morte. Laurence Jobidon’s L’hiver attend beaucoup de moi was perhaps more conventionally lyrical but it wasn’t a sound world one hears much in Toronto (at least in opera).
By contrast Cecilia Livingstone’s Singing Only Softly, based on the redacted parts of Anne Frank’s diary, had a visceral intensity but came out of the sound world that seems to be the common currency for contemporary opera in Toronto; largely tonal, not given to bold operatic statements, etc. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ottawa based Maria Atallah’s The Chair had elements of both the “Toronto approach” and the “Quebec approach”. Also I think here we were to some extent hearing a piano simulation of what will, eventually, be electronics.
The final piece was Kendra Harder’s Book of Faces; a comedy about social life on the internet. This one’s from Saskatchewan and musically is interesting. It’s basically a parody of baroque/oratorio style with a highly scatological libretto. It’s utterly different from all four of the other pieces which tackle pretty bleak issues/situations.
So, not for the first time in the last few years I wish I could spend more time exploring the Quebec/Montreal opera scene. Toronto is vibrant and fun but there just seems to be a different road being taken in Quebec and I’m curious.
The short extracts I heard yesterday have piqued my interest and I’m looking forward to seeing longer extracts fully staged on Saturday. I believe the program includes all of Book of Faces. Tickets are available at https://musique3femmes.bpt.me
Photo credits: Chris Hutcheson