About operaramblings

Toronto based lover of opera, art song and related music

Lutheran Masses

The final concert of this year’s Toronto Bach Festival at Saint Barnabas Anglican Church featured two of the little performed Latin masses written for Leipzig (or possibly for Count Franz Anton von Sporck of Lysá.  Sources vary).  In any event they are unusual for liturgical music.  Based on previously written cantatas for the most part, they incorporate elements not much seen in church music.

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A second look at Shanawdithit

We went back last night for a second look at Shanawdithit.  We were sitting up much closer to the stage area this time and that did bring out some things I hadn’t noticed so much before.  It also made the role of the chorus much clearer.  That said I don’t think I’d write anything much different to my original review if I were doing so again.  But there are some additional thoughts that I want to share:

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Unpacking Pandora

We went to see the opening performance of FAWN Chamber Creative’s new show Pandora at Geary Lane last night.  There’s a lot to like but it’s a dense and in some ways confusing show so I’d suggest that if you plan to go you do your homework.  So, don’t expect anything closely related to any of the many versions of the Greek legend.  That’s just a jumping off point to explain how both evil/malice and hope came into the world.  A very brief prologue in which a character discovers Pandora’s box (or jar or whatever) after centuries and releases Hope into the world sets up three scenes which each, in their own way, reflect the duality of Good/Evil, Despair/Hope or however you want to characterise it.  I strongly suggest reading the Director’s Notes and the Libretto before the show to understand what the three scenes are and where the transitions are.  There are no surtitles (money!) and not many of us can read a printed libretto in the dark.  Also, cast members change character sometimes without change of costume.  It’s helpful to know when that’s happening!  While there’s only one librettist, David James Brock, there are three composers but stylistic differences between them aren’t so obvious that one realises there has been a transition.

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Pomegranate

There’s been a lot of new opera in Toronto at the moment and a lot of it has had either an Indigenous or a Queer angle; likely reflecting funding bodies trying to encourage diversity of various types.  The latest one to come my way is Pomegranate which will play at Buddies in Bad Times from June 5th to 9th.  It’s a lesbian chamber opera from librettist Amanda Hale and composer Kye Marshall and it’s a first opera for both of them.

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Sea Variations

This year’s Canadian Art Song Project commission is a setting of poems by EJ Pratt by Dean Burry entitled Sea Variations.  It was given its first performance yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre by Michael Colvin and Stephen Philcox.  The texts all deal with the moods of the sea and seem curiously archaic for the 1920s when they were written.  They are much more reminiscent of, say, Matthew Arnold than Yeats, let alone Eliot.  They have a certain power though and anybody who knows the North Atlantic will easily appreciate why they might appeal to fellow Newfoundlander Burry.

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From the Depths

Stéphane Mayer’s Les Adieux recital yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was definitely out of the ordinary.  Rather than a concert or recital format we got a fully staged and costumed version of two Oscar Wilde related works.  First up was Saint Saëns’ version of The Nightingale and the Rose with Matt Pilipiak reading the story, Danika Lorèn as the Nightingale and Stéphane at the piano.  It was well done and a reminder of what a truly lovely voice Danika has.

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Ekstasis

Ekstasis is a multi-media collaboration between Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière.  There are six pieces on the Blu-ray disk.  Three were written by Saariaho with the visual elements added later by her husband.  The Barrière works were conceived from the outset as multi-media pieces.

The three Saariaho pieces come first.  There’s Nocturne for solo violin which is the only piece that doesn’t include electronics.  It’s played by Allisa Neige Barrière and is a kind of meditation for extended violin techniques.  The video element is the violinist sort of semi superposed on a rippling pond.  It’s typical of all the visuals.  An image, often the player, is combined with another image, often, as here, of a landscape element.  The images merge and flicker in a sort of kaleidoscopic way.

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