About operaramblings

Toronto based lover of opera, art song and related music

Born

nv6449_BornBorn is the latest album from Philadelphia based choir The Crossing conducted by Donald Nally.  There are three pieces on the album.  Two works by Michael Gilbertson book end the line up.  The first, Born, sets words by Wisława Szymborska translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. It deals in a very allusive way with the relationship between a man and his mother.  The music is intricate but still sounds a bit “church choiry” for my taste.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It’s well crafted and beautifully performed but not really my thing.

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Season announcements

There are a few season announcements piling up in the in box….

confluenceFirst up is the always interesting Confluence Concerts series.  It’s an eight show line-up:

  • September 24th at 3pm and 8pm at 918 Bathurst the awesome trio of Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan and Suba Sankaran have a recital including a new piece by Ian Cusson and André lexis called The Drawing Room and featuring a possibly recognisable trio of sisters.
  • October 12th at .7:30pm at St. Thomas’ Church, 383 Huron Street, Cellist Elinor Frey brings a group of virtuoso musicians from Montreal and Europe for music by Luigi Boccherini and contemporaries.
  • November 23rd and 24th at 7:30pm at Heliconian Hall, Suba Sankaran curates an 80th birthday concert for master drummer Trichy Sankaran featuring the man himself and many of his students.
  • December 5th at 7:30pm at The Atrium at Shaftsbury Place, the walter Unger salon will feature A Confluence Christmas.
  • Sometime in February next year at a time and place yet to be determined Marion Newman will present Tłabat’si (Copper Box) featuring Indigenous classical musicians from across Turtle island in a series of concerts, panels and other events.
  • April 7th and 8th at 7:30pm at Heliconian Hall, Andrew Downing will present Songs of Syria;  a program of the music of Syria, featuring members of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra.
  • May 26th and 27th at 7:30pm at Heliconian Hall will see the season finale, All the Diamonds, featuring words and music inspired by the night sky.

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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!

neworford

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