There’s a Met in HD season again with ten shows starting in October. All shows start at 12.55pm New York time. Three out of ten performances are 21st century operas which is as surprising as it is welcome. There are some interesting looking new productions and one or two that fit into a Met formula that doesn’t work for me usually. And there are two remarkably venerable productions that surely are past their sell by date. Here are my thoughts on each:
First the bad news. Calgary Opera have cancelled their fall production of Fidelio citing uncertainty over rehearsal, performance and audience management issues. I’m not surprised and I expect we will hear something similar from the COC next week. The performing arts really don’t seem to figure at all on the Ontario government’s priorities or plans which isn’t a surprise but is a bit depressing. There’s information here on what the industry is doing to try and get a change of priorities with tools you can use to help.
I found out yesterday that Vancouver based composer Jeffrey Ryan has won the 2021 Art Song Prize from the National Association of Singing Teachers (a US based body) for his song cycle Everything Already Lost. This is believed to be a first for a Canadian composer. Now, readers with good memories might recall that I was decidedly impressed by Ryan’s Miss Carr in Seven Scenes which was the 2018 CASP commission so, obviously, I was keen to check out the new work.
Perhaps not unexpectedly the Metropolitan Opera has announced the cancellation of the balance of their 2020/21 season. They took the opportunity to announce the 2021/22 season at the same time. It’s quite interesting. There’s the first opera by an African-American composer; Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Looks like an all African American cast for that and the co-director and choreography is also African-American. There’s also Brett Dean’s Hamlet in the Glyndebourne production and with most of the Glyndebourne cast but not Barbara Hannigan. Brenda Rae sings Ophelia. I’m curious to see how the “surround sound” elements of Dean’s music work in such a big house. There’s also Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice that premiered in Los ngeles in February and was thus probably the last new major opera before the storm hit. So three new(ish) operas in one season. I don’t think I’ve seen that from the Met before.
June 24th sees the return, virtually, of Larry Beckwith’s Confluence Concerts. Let’s Stay Together: A Confluence Salon will air on the Confluence Youtube Channel at 7pm EST with a pre-show Q&A at 6.30pm. Larry Beckwith, Dylan Bell, Andrew Downing, Gordon Gerrard, Robert Kortgaard, Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan, Suba Sankaran and Bijan Sepanji will perform music by Randy Newman, Ernest Chausson, Edith Piaf, Béla Bartok, Peter Maxwell Davies, Gustav Mahler, Leonard Cohen, Suba Sankaran, The Beatles, Charlie Chaplin and others. In addition, the renowned Canadian author André Alexis will read poems by Anna Akhmatova, Roo Borson and one of his own, Johnson Grass, from his 2019 novel Days by Moonlight. I’m excited. Since the series started Confluence has been one of the most interesting and fun gigs in town. Free!
Well, after a fashion… The good news is that Korean National Opera in Seoul is opening a run of Massenet’s Manon on June 25th. It’s with full orchestra, chorus etc but with only a restricted number of seats for sale. You can find out a lot more in the latest episode of Screaming Divas on Youtube. I’m guessing that this will likely be the only live opera on offer anywhere in the world this summer.
I’m always a bit surprised that there aren’t more sci-fi themed operas. It seems like a natural fit for the medium. I’ve seen a couple. A few years ago the UoT composer collective opera was an EM Forster based piece called The Machine Stops. There’s also Aaron Gervais’ The Harvester which I’ve seen twice in workshop and which may one day see the light. Now another has come to my attention but, alas, it’s in London, England so I wont be able to go. It sounds interesting though. It’s by Alastair White, it’s called Wear and it’s about fashion and the apocalypse.
The publicity material describes it as “A sci-fi fashion opera at the wild, impossible edges of contemporary art music: Waiting for Godot meets Lulu for the post-truth generation.”
Mark Berry (whose opinion I generally find reliable and insightful) reviewing an earlier incarnation said “spellbinding…an opera of rare imagination – and success”.
It’s getting it’s first fully staged outing next month directed by Gemma Williams. It will run for two nights at the Bridewell Theatre on the 23rd and 24th of August with special post-show events, as part of the festival ‘Opera in the City.’
If anyone can go and would like to review I’ll happily guest blog it.
I’m always a bit intrigued when someone comes up with a new technology solution for an old problem. If that solution is riding a particular technology trend I’m even more intrigued so when I saw PR material that a start up was creating a “platform” for linking agents, singers and casting personnel in the classical music business I wanted to find out more. Yesterday I spent some time with Danish tenor and entrepreneur Sune Hjerrild to find out what truelinked.com was all about.
The Metropolitan Opera has announced its HD broadcast schedule for next season. I think it’s a bit more interesting than the last couple of years and may even tempt me to go to a couple of shows. So here’s the line up: Continue reading
I’m not going to get to see this (obv!) but I am intrigued as it’s a concept I’ve not come across before. Next Saturday (November 10th) Mexican-American composer, Nathan Felix, will use headphones to present his new opera titled, The War Bride, at Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival in San Antonio Texas. There will be two performances starting at 7:30pm and 8:30pm in Hemisfair Park. Felix is known for his guerilla style approach in presenting classical music in unconventional spaces and The War Brideis given no exception, with a performance outside along the riverwalk at Hemisfair Park.
The War Bride is based on the memoir of Felix’s late grandmother, Jean Groundsell-Contreras, who married Joe Contreras during World War II in Great Britain. Joe, from Mexico, gained naturalization via serving in the US Army and after the two exchanged vows Joe remained in Germany, as Jean crossed the Atlantic pregnant and alone on the S.S. Saturnia in 1945. Jean eventually settled along the border in Nuevo Laredo with Joe joining her in late 1946. Felix recounts Jean’s tale by using the riverwalk to depict her journey across the Atlantic ocean, the Mississippi river and the Rio Grande river but he also uses the river as a metaphor for hope, division and to shed light on immigration. Jean will be played by sopranist, Elise Miller alongside baritone, Jeremiah Drake and tenor, James Dykman. Drake and Dykman will play a multiple characters in the opera including former British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain and former US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Continue reading