Veteran mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter appeared in recital at Koerner Hall yesterday afternoon with pianist Christopher Berner. The first part of the programme was some fairly gentle Mozart with some fairly light weight Weckerlin and one long Schubert piece; “Die Viola”. A short Mozart piano piece rounded out the programme. It was stylish, enjoyable singing but one felt that both choice of material and method of presentation were being chosen to conserve the voice. How would things go after the interval when three songs from Winterreise were promised?
So to Eastminster United last night for the opening concert of the Toronto Bach Festival. We got three concerti bookended by (I think) a sinfonia from one of the cantatas; an excuse to show off the trumpets and timpani recruited for Sunday’s oratorios, and an arrangement of the Air on the G String. Festival director John Abberger contributed a scholarly programme note on the general issue of Bach concerti. Bottom line, there aren’t very many of them but they can be rearranged for a pretty wide range of instrumental options. Last night we got the Concerto for Oboe BWV1056, Concerto for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord BWV 1044 and the much better known Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 BWV 1046.
Emma Haché’s Lesson in Forgetting (translated by Taliesin McEnaney and John Van Burek) is an exploration of memory, amnesia and love. It;’s currently playing in a production by Pleiades Theatre directed by Ash Knight at the Young Centre. The basic premise is that HE (Andrew Moodie) has suffered head injuries that mean the only thing he can remember is how much he loves SHE (Ma-Ann Dionisio). She visits him every day to work on his memory issues but it’s obviously hopeless and eventually, wanting to be free to continue her own life, she tries to leave him but can’t.
A Northern Lights Dream is a new operetta by Michael Rose which premiered this last week at Toronto Operetta Theatre in a production directed by Guillermo Silva-Marin. A new operetta is a very rare thing. It;’s just not a form that contemporary composers seem to take to. There’s far too much spoken dialogue for an opera but the musical language; mostly tonal, often quite beautiful but not afraid to get more abrasive when appropriate, is much closer to that of contemporary opera than musical theatre. So an operetta it is.
Almost six years to the day since his last appearance Bryn, now Sir Bryn, Terfel made it back to Koerner hall for a much anticipated recital; this time accompanied by Annabel Thwaite. The first set, partly setting up a Shakespeare theme for the evening, consisted of four songs by Schubert including “Trinklied” and “An Silvia”. It was followed by three of the the Quilter Shakespeare settings; “Come Away, Come Away, Death”, “O Mistress Mine” and “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind”. The first half concluded with the Vier ernste Gesänge of Brahms. I think it’s fair to say that what we were hearing was not the Bryn that his considerable following in the hall expected. The artistry of interpretation was still there but something was up with the voice. It didn’t have the bloom I remembered and in places, especially with high notes, it just wasn’t happening. Was he a bit under the weather or was it the toll of the years and lots of Wagner? I don’t know but I really hope it was the former.
Last night the Happenstancers presented another intriguing concert of chamber music titled Chimaera. This time it was in the excellent hall at 918 Bathurst. It was a clever conceit. There were three “sets” with each consisting of two contrasting works that were combined in different ways.
The pieces in the first set were played straightforwardly consecutively but consisted of the least familiar music; Julia Wolfe’s Reeling and the premiere of Nahre Sol’s Chunhyang. Wolfe is one of those young American composers who combine a conservatory training with a taste for minimalism and hard driving rock and, in the case of this piece, folk music. It’s scored for nine instrumentalists including electric guitar and drum kit plus lots of electronics. It’s really cool and reminds me of the most drunk ceilidhs I’ve ever been to. And that may be why I remember almost nothing about the second piece except that the composer (keyboards) was playing it.
Soundstreams is the latest local organisation to make the return to live performance with an audience with a concert Thursday night at St. Andrew’s Church titled A Love Song to Toronto. Three of the works on the program; Vivier’s Hymnen an dir Nacht and Lovesongs plus Christopher Mayo’s Oceana Nox, appeared in a streamed concert in November and I described them in some detail in reviewing that show. The performers were the same as well bar one. Pianist Serouj Kradjian replaced Gregory Oh . I don’t think my impressions of the pieces have changed much but I really appreciated the greater immediacy of a genuinely live performance.
Last night Joyce DiDonato and il Pomo d’Oro brought their touring show Eden to Koerner Hall. It’s one of those genre defying shows that’s not especially easy to describe. Basically it’s a recital of art songs and arias; most of the latter from the 18th century, with chamber orchestra accompaniment. It’s also staged but not with any obvious narrative. Rather Joyce interacts with two very large metal hoops which move around and rotate on their axes. All of this is backed up by John Torres’ complex and sometimes spectacular lighting plot. Cynics might call it gimmicky but given the difficulty of building the audience for vocal recitals I’m all for trying new things and the audience loved it so I think that’s justification enough.
My review of Sunday’s performance of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa is now up at Opera Canada.
Confluence Concerts returned to live performance last night at Heliconian Hall. The concert, curated by Patricia O’Callaghan, was titled A Simple Twist of Fate and featured an eclectic mix of music either on the topic of Fate or that was entwined with the fates of the performers.