Jacqueline is a new opera by librettist Royce Vavrek and composer Luna Pearl Woolf. It will premiere at Tapestry next month. It deals with the life and career of cellist Jacqueline du Pré. Du Pré was a celebrity in her own life time. She made her Wigmore Hall debut at age 16 in 1961 and quickly established herself as one of the all time greatest exponents of her instrument with a rather special relationship with the Elgar concerto. Marriage to Daniel Barenboim, conversion to Judaism and “membership” in the rather remarkable circle of musical Jews in New York followed. Her physical ability to play the cello though began to decline in 1971 and a formal diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was made in 1973. She lived for another 14 years but never played again in public.
If anybody in Canada is interested in seeing the HD broadcast of the Met production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess I may be able to help. I can’t do anything about this upcoming weekend’s live broadcast but I do have, courtesy of Touchwood PR, a couple of tickets to give away for the encore presentations. It’s a Canada only deal and you could pick any showing between Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, April 5th at the movie theatre of your choice. This link should serve to figure out when it’s on where. Comment with an email address and I’ll sort out logistics with the lucky winner. First come first served.
Catalan collective Els Comediants’ production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is back at the COC in a revival of the 2015 production. Five years ago I described it as a “glorious romp” and, based on yesterday’s performance, I see non need to amend that judgement. It may be even better this time. It still has Joan Guillén’s wonderfully colourful and silly costumes and sets and it still has Joan Font’s inspired directing; perhaps even crisper this time. Once again it has a wonderful cast of international and Canadian singers including a reprise of Bartolo by the admirable Renato Girolami.
I’m a big fan of taking classic song cycles and giving them a treatment other than the very formal Liederabend approach; fond as I am of that! So I was intrigued to see what Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project would make of Schubert’s Winterreise.
2020 started with news of yet another anti-semitic atrocity in the United States. My musical 2020 started with a new recording of that finest of all musical acts of resistance to anti-semitism, Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 13 in B-Flat minor “Babi Yar”. It’s a setting of poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko for orchestra, bass soloist and men’s chorus and it’s powerful stuff. It’s often performed at consistently high energy and volume and seething with anger. Riccardo Muti treats it rather differently. The recording, featuring bass Alexey Tikhomirov, the Chicago Symphony and the men of their chorus, doesn’t lack drama or intensity but it’s also often intensely lyrical. When require, Tikhomirov and the chorus produce some gorgeously beautiful, even delicate, singing and the orchestra do the same. There’s not much of the blaring brass one associates with the Leningrad recordings of the Shostakovich symphonies. Instead there’s some wonderful playing, especially by the low brass. The motif in the fourth movement, curiously reminiscent of the Fafner scene in Siegfried, features a sort of duet between tuba(?) and timpani to great effect. This is very fine music making.
The recording, on the CSO’s Resound label, is exemplary. The textures are crystal clear and the overall ambience feels like a proper symphony hall. This is the memorial for Babi Yar.
Last night’s TSO concert was a collaboration with Barbara Hannigan’s Equilibrium Young Artists project with EQ providing the quartet of soloists for Mozart’s Requiem. But before we got to the Requiem there was a performance of Mozart’s Symphony no. 39 in E-flat Major. It was enjoyable. A somewhat reduced scale TSO played as well as they usually do when Sir Andrew Davis is on the podium and he took us through an irreproachable reading of the works essential tuneful and easy to listen to four movements. It made a pleasant “overture”.
The opening concert of the 21C festival featured an all Osvaldo Golijov programme presented by Against the Grain Theatre. It was preceded by a very informative conversation between Joel Ivany and the composer. My main takeaway from that is that Golijov writes for people not instruments. If the people he has in mind for a piece play a certain combination of instruments that’s what he will write for and if circumstances demand it he will readily make changes. We saw that last night when cantor Alex Stein was unable to perform in K’vakaret (for cantor and string quartet) and Juan Gabriel Olivares stepped in on clarinet instead.