Tapestry have another in their outdoor “box concerts” series coming up Friday, August 7th at 2pm at Ehatare Retirement and Nursing Home, 40 Old Kingston Rd, Scarborough. It features tenor Asitha Tennekoon and if you are in the neighbourhood you should be able to find them. The series is aimed at community groups, retirement homes etc and if you are so inclined you can arrange for them to come visit. Details are on the Tapestry website.
The Salzburg Festival rarely does operetta but in 2019 they decided to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Offenbach’s birth with a new production of Orphée aux enfers by Barrie Kosky. With Kosky and comedy one sort of knows what to expect but there’s always something very original. Here, in order to get the (German) dialogue as crisp as possible he takes it away from the singers and gives it to a new character; John Styx, played by actor Max Hopp, who not only speaks all the dialogue in an amazingly wide range of voices but also produces all the sound effects. The only other character who speaks is Anne Sofie von Otter as L’Opinion publique and even she is doubled by Hopp. Not that the singers have nothing to do during the dialogues. They pantomime their words, often in quite an exaggerated fashion and to great effect.
Just a quick round up of what’s happening on Youtube that I haven’t written about recently.
Opera Revue continues to produce weekly short videos. The latest looks like it’s going to be the first in a series of numbers from their Blitzkrieg Cabaret show at the Dakota Tavern back before the flood.
Rachel Fenlon is aa unusual talent. She’s equally skilled as a soprano and as a pianist and she has combined those talents to create an evolving show called Fenlon and Fenlon where she sings (mostly) art song while accompanying herself on piano. I saw a very early version of the show in Toronto back in 2016. Last night there was a chance to see Rachel again; streamed from Berlin by Against the Grain as part of the Opera Pub series.
Yesterday was the one vocal element in this year’s virtual Toronto Summer Music; a recital streamed from the Burlington Arts Centre by mezzo Ema Nikolovska and pianist Steven Philcox. I think this was quite the best on-line event I have seen/heard since this schmozzle started. It started off with a master class in German Lieder singing. There were three Beethoven and three Schubert songs and they were just lovely. Ema’s voice is a lovely rich mezzo and she showed great expression and attention to the text backed up by perfect diction. Steven, as ever, was an exemplary accompanist.
The Anchoress is a 2018 work for soprano and instrumental ensemble by David Ludwig setting texts by Katie Ford. There are eight “scenes” each exploring an aspect of life of the medieval anchoress; a woman who voluntarily secluded herself in a cell attached to a church. Such women were seen as almost saintly and thought to have great insight which was sought by all ranks of people. Issues explored in Ford’s poems include faith, alienation, gender and social power as seen through the anchoress’ eyes.
Robert Wilson’s take on Turandot is interesting. It’s symbolic, even ritualistic and it’s perhaps best seen as a performance of a performance. It’s certainly not in any way naturalistic. Throughout the characters are “abstracted” by colour scheme in costume and make up and they move in highly stylized patterns. This is especially apparent in Act 3 where when Liù dies nothing happens. She just stands in a pose. She and Timur then walk back and forth across the stage a few times before slowly processing into the wings. It’s the same with the final scene with Calaf and Turandot. They never even touch each other which makes Calaf’s rather lurid description of what he’s going to do to Turandot seem even rapier than usual. The words and the music (the IMHO overblown Alfano completion) seem at odds but maybe make sense in a ritualistic way. The approach does make for some very striking stage pictures though.
It seems like as soon as the lockdown started there was a great rush to get content up online. Companies big and small were at it and so were individual artists and groups of friends. Some of the content was performance, some was interviews and some was just plain quirky. Since then we’ve seen specially staged concerts and attempts to monetize the streams among other things. It’s four months on and what have we learnt?
FAWN are streaming a version of their latest Convergence theory concert on Thursday evening. This isn’t opera. It’s part of FAWN’s electronic music series. You can find out the details, order your 3D glasses and see a sample here.
On August 10th at 6.30pm EST the COC are livestreaming Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian as part of Montreal Pride. It’s apparently been filmed in HD (unlike the archive videos the COC has been streaming for a while now). I wonder if that means a video release at some point. It’s free but requires advance registration at coc.ca/Hadrian. Not familiar with the work? Here’s a link to my review of the opening night.
I’ve mentioned this one before but don’t forget Ema Nikolovska and Steven Philcox’ recital for TSM. That’s on July 31st at noon EST.
On Thursday evening the members of COC’s Ensemble Studio collaborated to create an on-line concert called Songs of Hope. All the current Ensemble members plus Liz Upchurch took part in an extremely eclectic programme MC’d by Simone Osborne. There was “classic” art song with Jamie Groote singing Britten’s arrangement of Burns’ Highland Balou. Joel Allison sang Silent Noon by Vaughan Williams; a test piece for any Anglo baritone inviting comparison with the likes of Thomas Allen and Bryn Terfel. He passes the test in my book. Very fine singing indeed. Vartan Gabrielan gave us a rare chance to hear a genuine bass singing Schubert; in this case Ständchen. The different timbre is an interesting and welcome change.