Yesterday afternoon I attended the latest concert in the extremely well curated Mazzoleni Songmasters series at the Royal Conservatory of Music. This one featured soprano Joyce El Khoury and mezzo Beste Kalender in a program of French songs influenced by orientalism with some genuine Lebanese and Turkish songs thrown in for fun. Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard were at the piano and, besides accompanying, gave us a couple of short pieces for four hands.
The 6th in the annual series of fundraisers for St. Mike’s ICU in memory of Elizabeth Krehm took place at Christ Church, Deer Park last night. Once again Evan Mitchell had assembled a fine orchestra of volunteers and Elizabeth’s sister, Rachel, sang. The orchestra book ended the program with the overture from Hänsel und Gretel and Brahm’s 4th Symphony; the latter a very red blooded account indeed with the brass and woodwinds getting a workout. The main interest though was the premier of Come Closer: Songs on Texts by Elizabeth Krehm. The texts are drawn from selections of Elizabeth’s writing, from Grade 2 to near the end of her short life, selected by Rachel. The music is by Ryan Trew. They are really quite evocative texts, showing a surprising emotional depth. The settings are apt; steering a middle ground between artsy and schmaltzy, and Rachel sang with real feeling. It was a loving and lovely act of remembrance.
How to present a mostly forgotten composer to a modern audience is an interesting conundrum. Reviving a four hour opera seria about Marcus Aurelius likely isn’t the answer and just sticking a few pieces in an otherwise mainstream program is unlikely to have much impact either. Better by far, I think, is the approach Ivars Taurins has taken in Tafelmusik’s current run of concerts of music by the Venetian Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) at Trinity St.Paul’s.
The concluding concert of this year’s International Centre for Performing Artists Singing Stars program for this year took place last night at 96.3FM. For the eleven singers it was the culmination of a day working with Adrianne Pieczonka and a lot of practice and I think that came through on the night. In the various interviews during the show (it was being broadcast live), many of the singers remarked on Adrianne’s advice to be an artist, not just a singer (or something to that effect). Certainly I felt there was less strictly correct singing and more effort to get inside the music and words than one often hears in competitions.
This year’s GGS School fall opera was a presentation of three short works influenced by Dada and surrealism. The first was Martinů’s Les larmes du couteau. It’s a hard work to describe. Here’s what naxos.com has to offer:
Eleanor longs to marry someone like the Hanged Man, whose body is suspended over the stage. Satan appears, professing love for Eleanor, who rejects him, still longing for the Hanged Man, to which Satan now marries her, an event she celebrates by dancing a tango. A Negro Cyclist appears and Satan assumes the latter’s form. Eleanor seeks to attract the Negro/Satan, while her Mother makes gymnastic gestures at the back of the stage. Eleanor kisses the Negro, whose head bursts open, revealing Satan. Eleanor, terrified, stabs herself and the Hanged Man starts to dance to a foxtrot, as his head and limbs are detached, for him to juggle with. He comes to life and embraces Eleanor, but when she kisses him his head bursts open and the face of Satan is seen. She gives up her pursuit of love, while the Mother claims to know how to win Satan’s love, only to be rejected.
Les Larmes du couteau is very short in duration and offered obvious problems in staging, to be solved, it has been suggested, by the use of film.
Kateryna Khartova and Rachel Miller in Tears of the Knife
Opera Atelier’s french double header opened last night at the Elgin Theatre. It was, bar the occasional twist, classic Opera Atelier. They presented two French baroque operas in their distinctive style with a little humour and none of the excesses that have sometimes crept in.
Last night’s Confluence concert in the intimate space of the Ernest Balmer Studio; Sovereignty Voiced, was a fascinating mix of material celebrating various aspects of Indigenous culture and its interplay with Western arts. Marion Newman and Ian Cusson performed excerpts from two of his song cycles; Five Orchestral Songs on Poems of Marilyn Dumont and A Breakfast for Barbarians. Marion also gave us a few of her own songs including the wicked Appropriation Aria and the Kinanu, which she wrote for her sister; given here with Marion on hand drum, Larry Beckwith on violin and Ian at the piano.
But this was much more than a concert of Indigenous themed art song, enjoyable though that part was. There was also singer and drummer Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone with some of her own songs and actor Cole Alvis with stories about discovering his Métis roots. Poet Armand Garnet Ruffo read from his poems inspired by the paintings of Norval Morrisseau.
If the rest of the Confluence series is this thought provoking it will be a notable addition to the Toronto music and arts scene.