About operaramblings

Toronto based lover of opera, art song and related music

Hosokawa double bill

hosokawaThis year’s featured composer in UoT’s New Music Festival is Toshio Hosokawa.  Last night saw performances of two of his one act operas in Walter Hall in productions by filmmaker Paramita Nath, with the composer in the hall.  The first was a monodrama setting of Poe’s The Raven featuring Kristina Szabó and a student ensemble conducted by Gregory Oh.  It’s an interesting piece.  Hosokawa’s sound world combines the European avant-garde with Japanese elements so it’s unlike anything I’ve heard from a North American composer.  It’s dramatic and atmospheric and works really well with fevered nature of Poe’s text.  He also writes well for the voice with a variety of demands from whispering, through speech to full on singing.  All of this coped with admirably by Szabó who, as ever, seemed perfectly at home with whatever the composer threw at her.

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The Harlequin Salon

05-harlequin-750x397-extended-rightThe idea of recreating an accademia musicale (private concert) at the home of Roman artist/patron Pier Leone Ghezzi in 1723 and putting on works that might have been played at such an event is an intriguing one.  Add to that that we were promised caricatures; Ghezzi being a noted pioneer of the form.  Marco Cera, who conceived the show, seemed to be onto a good thing.

What we actually got wasn’t exactly what I expected.  There were the musicians, including noted baroque soprano Roberta Invernizzi, impersonating Ghezzi’s guests; from Vivaldi to Farinelli, with Cera himself as Ghezzi.  But there was also Ghezzi’s servant, played as Harlequin, acted by Dino Gonçalves.  The show was heavy on Harlequin’s cheeky chappy clowning which was, as the lemur put it, like “watching Jerry Lewis channelling Roger Rabbit”.  Not really my thing.

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A Canadian in Rossini?

Yes, there is a Rossini opera with a Canadian character.  Well, OK it’s a bit ambiguous whether he’s Canadian or American and the librettist doesn’t seem quite sure that they aren’t the same thing.  Anyway, likely the earliest of an appearance of a Canadian in opera unless one counts the Les sauvages d’Amérique section of Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes.  The opera is the early one act comedy, La cambiale di matrimonio.  It’s a bit of a one trick pony.  An English merchant has contracted to marry his daughter to the Canadian, Snook, but she’s already unofficially engaged to another.  After much faffing about Snook makes the contract over to the other suitor and makes him his heir.  The joke, such as it is, is that all this is carried out in the language of commercial contracts.  For example, when Snook minds out that Fanny is engaged he considers the “merchandise” to be “mortgaged” and so on.  Still it provides a back drop for some showy singing and the usual rapid fire Rossini ensemble numbers.

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Looking ahead

Here’s what’s coming up of note in the next few weeks.

event_2132There are some interesting things coming up at the UoT Faculty of Music.  On January 17th at 7.30pm there’s an opera double bill in Walter Hall featuring Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven and The Maiden from the Sea (Futari Shizuka).  Kristina Szabó features in the first piece with Xin Wang in the second.  The composer conducts.  See Wallace’s comment below for more information. Then at 2.30pm on January 20th in the MacMillan there’s the Student Opera Collective show.  The libretto, as ever, is by Michael Patrick Albano.  This time it’s a black comedy whodunnit about the death of Adriana Lacouvreur.

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Adrianne Pieczonka joins Glenn Gould School

portrait-1-ap-479-isocIt’s recently been announced that Canadian soprano and snow shoveler Adrianne Pieczonka OC will join the Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School as its first Vocal Chair in May 2019.  While my first thought was that a “vocal chair” sounded like something out of a Terry Pratchett novel, more serious consideration has convinced that this is a very good move indeed.  There are a handful, but only a handful, of current Canadian singers who are enjoying as distinguished a career as Adrienne so she knows how the business works at its highest levels.  She’s also a very grounded, down to earth, person so besides contributing to developing the vocal and dramatic talents of the GGS students I can’t think of too many people better able to coach/guide students around the snakes and ladders board of an opera career.  Smart move Glenn Gould School.

And over, and over

Ho Ka Kei’s take on the last canonical part of the story of the House of Atreus; Iphigenia and the Furies (on Taurian Land) opened last night at the Aki Studio in a production directed by Jonathan Seinen.  It’s a very funny and very thought provoking take on the story that will likely be best known to opera goers as the plot of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride.  I want to start with the three questions that the playwright set out to answer:

  • What does it mean for mainly POC’s and marginalized folks to be taking this tale on?
  • What do we gain/ what do we lose/ what may feel erased/ what is truly universal about this tale or is that an assumption due to its status in the canon?
  • When we end a cycle, say a cycle of vengeance, what other cycles emerge?

This interests me especially because I’m not in any real sense a marginalized person.  Indeed I’m almost “archetypically” of the group that has made the classical canon its own; i.e a white male with a traditional classical education(1).

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