This summer Against the Grain Theatre and UoT Opera have been collaborating on an Intensive focussed on modern opera. Last night saw the culminating show; This is Prophetic, featuring staged scenes from twelve post 1950 operas. Since there were one tenor, one baritone and nineteen assorted sopranos and mezzos selecting the scenes must have been quite a challenge. Unsurprisingly perhaps there was nothing from Billy Budd.
Yesterday I saw the culmination of the project that I had seen in rehearsal earlier in the week. The Ukrainian Art Song Project Summer Intensive presented 21 songs in a linked narrative about losing and regaining inspiration. It was staged in the round in the Temerty Theatre with the piano in the middle of the room and the action taking place all over. Pavlo Hunka directed. Albert Krywolt and Robert Kortgaard shared piano duties and there were eight young singers from Canada, the US and Ukraine.
Last night’s final Koerner Hall event in Toronto Summer Music started off with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major. It’s a tuneful, well constructed piece which in places riffs off Romany music, hence its nickname “Turkish”. Jonathan Crow was the soloist with a small orchestra drawn from all the area’s major orchestras plus TSM Fellows. Gemma New conducted. It was very satisfying. The orchestra was excellent and the interplay between solist and orchestra worked very well. It’s quite a demanding piece for the soloist and I really enjoyed the sound that Jonathan produced. He plays an instrument with a rather distinctive timbre which worked well here. I’m curious about the first movement cadenza. I don’t know the work well enough to knoew what the options are but this one was very virtuosic though sounding distinctly post-Mozartian.
Driftwood Theatre’s Bard’s Bus Tour touched down at Withrow Park yesterday evening in near perfect conditions for their lightly updated musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. D. Jeremy Smith’s production is cleverly constructed to cover off all the bases with a cast of only eight and with the minimal staging possible for an outdoor touring production. The updating makes the Mechanicals into Oshawa auto workers. The music is largely integral; parts of the text being set to music by Kevin Fox and Tom Lillington further adapted and performed by Alison Beckwith with support from various members of the cast. There are cuts and the whole piece runs about an hour and forty five minutes without an interval.
The main stage concert for TSM at Koerner Hall last night was given by the Art of Time Ensemble with vocalists John Southworth and Sarah Slean. It’s my first encounter with Art of Time have been around for about ten years and specialise in cross genre collaborations inspired by their founder, pianist Andrew Burashko.
Last night was classical meets singer songwriter. There was an introductory piece by Christos Hatzis, some Schubert, plenty of Gershwin and lashings of Leonard Cohen plus much more (there was no set list and I didn’t take notes). It’s rather out of my usual zone but I enjoyed. Southworth is a really quirky vocalist, exemplified by a rather weird version of The Old Folks at Home; which needed to be weird! Slean is quite a performer; good voice, very funny, great mover. The ensemble was terrific across the board. I’m sold. There are lots of reasons to stretch the boundaries of classical performance. Larry Beckwith does it very well with his Confluence series. Here’s another example.
The late show, also at Koerner, featured Jonathan Crow, Katya Poplyansky, Minkyoung Lee and Allison Rich in a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in B-flat Major Op. 130 but with a twist. They played the full original version in which the Grosse Fuge Op. 133 forms the finale. So, basically, an hour long string quartet! It was very well done though I confess late Beethoven at 10.30 pm was straining the grey matter.
Photo credit: Dale Butteril
Collectìf’s latest show for the Toronto Summer Music Festival at Walter Hall last night was called Beyond Perception: What Haunts Us Now. It presented three new multimedia works each curated and directed by one of the trio of singers. The first piece, by Whitney O’Hearne featured arrangements of French works; both folk and classical that deal with the idea of La Dame Blanche; by turns sorceress or virgin bride. Turning the idea of male defined female transgression upside down to celebrate women’s agency, O’Hearn combined arrangements of the chosen music for combinations of three voices and piano with soft focus atmospheric video rather reminiscent of Collectìf’s Winterreise show at Heliconian Hall. The singing was beautiful and the concept intriguing. Top notch accompaniment by Trevor Chartrand.
The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.