Debauchery at the Dakota

collarSo on a grungy corner of Dundas and Ossington lies a grungy cellar dive; the Dakota Tavern.  It’s not an obvious place to do opera though a mash up of opera and burlesque is more plausible.  And so that’s what we got from the Opera Revue crew (Alexander Hajek, Danie Friesen and Claire Harris) and four burlesque dancers.

The music was appropriately chosen; some Phantom, Don Giovanni, Carmen, some Weill plus show tunes.  Basically mine the repertory for stuff that is a bit edgy and plays with ideas of sexual consent or lack of it.  Ironically the goody bag that was raffled off at the interval include, apparently, an Armadildo.  I say ironically because I had spent my lunchtime with the cast and crew of Colleen Wagner’s new play Armadillos which is also (at least in part) about sexual consent or lack of it. Continue reading

Leipzig cantatas

The final concert of this year’s Toronto Bach Festival took place at Eastminster United Church yesterday afternoon.  It offered two of the cantatas Bach wrote in Leipzig in 1723; Die Elenden sollen essen and Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes  Each is written in two parts which, originally would have bookended a sermon (mercifully absent yesterday).  Each begins with a choral setting of a biblical verse and proceeds via recits on arias on related texts.  The second half of each starts with a Sinfonia and finishes with a chorale based on a Lutheran hymn.

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All the Diamonds

Confluence Concerts last show of the season; All the Diamonds, was dedicated to the night sky.  It’s not easy to find new things to say about Confluence, unless there’s a new work or sometging on the programme.  Every show is different but there are elements in common.  The styles of the music vary from pop, to singer-songwriter, to jazz to classical to spoken word and the performance styles are equally varied and not always what one expects for the piece in question.  So for instance, Don McLean’s “Starry Night” got the Suba Sankaran/Dylan Bell two part a cappella treatment and the traditional Ladino number “Yo menamori d’un aire” got full on jazz vocals from Patricia ‘Callaghan with instrumentals from Larry Beckwith n violin and Andrew Downing on bass.  It was fun, varied and joyous and no two bits of the 23 item line up was quite like anything else.


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Haydn’s Orfeo at the MacMillan Theatre

orfeoposterLast night saw the first of two performances of Haydn’s rarely performed 1791 work Orfeo: L’anima del filosofo.  I know how much effort and indeed passion went into creating this production and the singing is pretty good.  I wish I could say I enjoyed it but I can’t.  There were just too many issues.

Let’s start with the opera itself.  Maybe it was never completely finished as it was shut down by the authorities during rehearsals in London.  Maybe that’s why it feels horribly unbalanced.  The first half (two acts) tell us of Eurydice being betrothed, against her will, to her father, King Creonte’s, rival Arideo.  She runs off into the forest where she is about to be devoured by beasts when the news is brought to Orfeo who then sings at length before “rushing” off to rescue Euridice.

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Lonely Child

I sort of remember when I saw an early stage workshop of soprano Stacie Dunlop’s interpretation of Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child.  I think it was back in 2019 and I remember it was in a grungy former industrial space on Sterling Road.  There’s a video of/about that performance. Time has passed and the work has now been fully realised and it’s available as a 17 minute film which I’ve had a chance to watch the latter.  There’s more work going on to make it the core of a longer live show.


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La Verbena de la Paloma

Yesterday I caught the last of three performances of Tomás Bretón’s La Verbena de la Paloma given by Toronto Operetta Theatre at the St.Lawrence Centre.  It’s a zarzuela.  What’s that you may ask.  In short it’s the native Spanish form of operetta.  Based on what I saw yesterday it has the following elements; a love story with a complication that resolves happily, spoken dialogue, musical numbers including traditional Spanish folk/dance pieces and elements of the commedia dell’arte.  These latter included an older man lusting after a much younger girl )actually a pair of them), a jealous lover who is tested by his sweetheart and a bumbling policeman.


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Samuel Mariño with Tafelmusik

Yesterday I saw the second of two performances by Venezuelan male soprano Samuel Mariño with Tafelmusik at Trinity St. Paul’s. The programme was a mixture of virtuoso baroque arias by various composers interspersed with relatively short instrumental pieces.

Samuel Mariño with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

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From Strauss to the Orient

Last night’s concert at Trinity Saint Paul’s by the Amici Ensemble and friends. was titled From Strauss to the Orient.  Unsurprisingly, the first half of the concert was Strauss.  The first piece was the Duett Concertino for clarinet, bassoon, strings and harp; arranged by Serouj Kradjian with piano replacing harp.  Besides the Amicis (Serouj – piano, Joaquin Valdepeñas – clarinet and David Hetherington – cello) were guests Kathleen Kajioka and Timothy Ying – violins, Barry Shiffman – viola, David Lalonde – bass and Michael Sweeney – bassoon.  It’s an interesting piece.  The clarinet and bassoon basically carry on a conversation across three movements with the strings and piano as a sort of “backing band”.  The overlapping ranges but very different colours of the two woodwind instruments are both pleasing and intriguing.  It was nicely done.  It’s always a delight to watch a chamber ensemble that is obviously communicating and having fun!


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Marion Newman and friends

mnThursday’s concert in the Music in the Afternoon series at Walter Hall was curated by Marion Newman and featured herself, soprano Melody Courage, baritone Evan Korbut and pianist Gordon Gerrard.  It featured some classic opera duets and trios ranging from the Flower Duet from Madama Butterfly to an exuberant “Dunque io son” from the Barber of Seville along with Berlioz’ “Vous soupirer” from Beatrice et Bénédict (which sounded like title should translate as “you will be immersed in warm soup”).  These numbers were all very well done and there were a couple of solo pieces too with Melody singing the Poulenc La Fraicheur et le Feu with great verve and Evan chipping in with an exuberant “Sit down, you’re rocking the boat” from Guys and Doills.

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