My review of Tapestry Songbook X is now up on the Opera Canada website.
Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park opened last night at UoT Opera in a production by Tim Albery. It’s a really interesting show that builds up in “layers” to a very satisfying whole. The Austen novel, of course, is very self consciously a novel. There’s no pretence at “immersion”. The author is both telling the story and commenting on it for the benefit of you, the reader. Librettist Alasdair Middleton both builds on this and does a quite brilliant job of compression to bring in a condensed, and only slightly simplified, version of the story in under two hours.
Toronto Operetta Theatre’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore opened last night. Director Guillermo Silva-Marin has chosen to translate the piece to a cruise ship in the 1920s which has its incongruities but they aren’t particularly disturbing (except perhaps for Sir Joseph Porter’s shoes!). In fact what we get is basically a crisp, well paced and idiomatic Pinafore which is what I want in G&S. It’s also genuinely funny, though some jokes age better than others, and occasionally even quite moving.
Another unusual and interesting show from Larry Beckwith’s Confluence Concerts last night at the Aki Studio. The first half of the programme was a reading of Madeleine Thien’s short story Bullet Train. It’s sort of a double coming of age story that also looks at what we hang onto and what we don’t as we move through life. It was beautifully read by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster with cunningly chosen piano interludes played by Gregory Oh.
After the interval it was Alice Ping Yee Ho’s Yoko Ono inspired piece; Witch on Thin Ice. At it’s centre was virtuoso percussionist Beverly Johnstone who displayed great skill on a range of untuned and tuned percussion while executing parts of Melissa Bettio’s choreography and producing all but indescribable vocals! She was supported by soprano Vania Chan and dancer Jessica Mak with a rap number by Gregory Oh. Playing over all of this were really rather striking videos and electronics designed by Alice. It was a bit overwhelming really. Maybe like being in the middle of an immersive video game and a very complex percussion piece at the same time. Anyway, great fun and totally unexpected!
There’s another chance to catch this programme tonight at 8pm at the Aki Studio.
The GGS Vocal Showcase is an opportunity to see all the current vocal students at the school in recital. It’s interesting because it’s an opportunity to “talent spot” and to see how one’s favourites from previous years are progressing. But it’s important to calibrate. The talent on show ranges from first year undergrad to post grads. That’s a six year span; enough university to take one from A levels to PhD when I was a lad. Nobody should expect the standard to be even.
To Heliconian Hall last night for a short concert of songs by Danika Lorèn. It was thoroughly enjoyable. The songs were split up into sets of one or two and sung/accompanied by UoT grad students. The standard of performance was pretty decent but it was very noticeable that when Danika and Stéphane Mayer inserted themselves into the proceedings everything got turned up a couple of notches. As Danika said to me “not a student anymore” while hinting at a significant numerological event.
Lagrime di San Pietro is the final masterpiece of Renaissance composer Orlando di Lasso. It sets 21 poems by Luigi Tansillo on the general theme of Peter’s regret at betraying Christ and his lifelong regret for that. They also deal with the end of life when the nearness of death and the pain of living make one long for death. There’s even one poem where Peter regrets that he, who has seen Christ raise the dead and heal the lame, can no longer remember it happening. Unsurprisingly they were banned by the Catholic Church and so di Lasso can have had no expectation that the work, composed in the last weeks of his life would ever be performed. Structurally the work is seven part polyphony sung a capella. There are 20 eight line madrigals plus a motet.
This Is How We Got Here is a play by Keith Barker that opened at the Aki Studio last night. It’s about grief and how an event can affect multiple relationships at multiple levels. It’s very cleverly crafted with a non linear time line so I am going to be somewhat evasive about the plot because spoilers would spoil it.
Yesterday afternoon I attended the first concert of the year for the Mazzoleni Songmasters series with Leslie Ann Bradley, Allyson McHardy and Rachel Andrist presenting a programme entitled Sirens; structured around the Four Elements. There was a strong slant towards women composers with the programme anchored around four duets from Elizabeth Raum’s Sirens cycle. Unsurprisingly perhaps a lot of the material was quite unfamiliar with a sprinkling of more familiar fare from the likes of Schumann.
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.