I met yesterday with Ryan McDonald and Camille Rogers to discuss their new project, OperaQ, and its upcoming show Dido and Belinda. The driving idea is that opera needs a space for “queer people to tell queer stories to queer people”. Now I’m sure many peopl’s initial reaction would be close to mine along the lines of “surely there’s no shortage of gay people in the opera world?”; which is ,of course, true but not really the point. Gender presentation in opera is highly conventional, both on and off the stage. There are strong stereotypes about “masculine” heroes. Can an overtly gay man get cast as Otello (or even Hadrian)? There are equally strong stereotypes about how female singers should present. Everybody is supposed to be glamorous à la Maria Callas, an attitude that was brilliantly taken apart in Teiya Kasahara’s Queer of the Night. Transgender issues add another layer onto this where, paradoxically perhaps, operas traditions of cross dressing confine rather than create space for transgender expression. So, opera, lots of queers but not much queerness?
Larry Beckwith’s innovative new series of concerts, Confluence, has just announced an addition to the season.
The first is a salon concert; Music Has No Borders: In Memory Of Walter Unger on March 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm. It will take place at 7:30 pm on Monday March 4th in The Atrium at 21 Shaftesbury Avenue and will feature lectures and performances by Canadian composers John Beckwith and Alice Ping Hee Ho, pianist Gregory Oh, bassist Andrew Downing and clarinetist Majd Sekkar. Tickets are available at the door and at bemusednetwork.com for $25.
Usually things slow down a bit at the end of February but not, it seems, this year. First a notice for this month. Sara Schabas and Daniel Norman present a recital of music by Bernstein, Mozart, Schubert, Alma & Gustav Mahler & more. It’s at the Church of the Redeemer on Bloor at 7.30 pm on February 27th. Tickets here. The first weekend of the month is busy with a “semi-staged” Le comte Ory at Trinity St. Paul’s on Saturday March 2nd at 7.30pm. The production is by François racine and the cast includes Asitha Tennekoon, Marjorie Maltais and Caitlin Wood. On Sunday at 3pm Toronto Operetta Thaetre are presenting Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream. That’s at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Also on Friday night and Sunday afternoon Opera York are doing Don Giovanni. The Donnas are Natalya Gennadi and Beste Kalender. That’s at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Arts.
No big surprises in the announcement of new members of the COC Ensemble Studio. It’s the three prize winners from last year’s Centre Stage; tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian and mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote. Also joining is pianist and intern coach Alex Soloway. Cairns and Groote are UoT grads and are well known to many Toronto opera goers through their appearances in UoT productions and elsewhere. Gabrielian is a Toronto native but studied at the Curtis so is not so well known. It will be interesting to get to know him.
New COC Ensemble Studio members (l – r): tenor Matthew Cairns, bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian, mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote, pianist and intern coach Alex Soloway
The COC 2019/20 season was revealed last night at the Four Seasons Centre. I liked the set up this time. A brief introduction from Alexander Neef, an overture and then a well scripted narrative, read by William Webster, describing the works in turn within the theme of “Once Upon A Time”, with a performance of one number from each opera. And so, what do we get:
Puccini – Turandot – September 28th to October 27th 2019 – 9 performances.
This is the Robert Wilson production from Madrid. Tamara Wilson and Marjorie Owens share the title role with Sergey Skorokhodov and Kamen Chanev as Calaf and Joyce El-Khoury/Vanessa Vasquez as Liu. Carlo Rizzi conducts. I’m not a huge fan of Wilson’s elegant but static productions but I could see it working for Turandot. I’m told the usual Alfano completion will be used.
Opera Atelier has announced its 2019/20 season. As usual there are two main stage shows. The first is a revival of their 2011 production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It runs from October 31st to November 9th, 2019, in the Ed Mirvish Theatre. It’s a production that plays up the comedy and the elements of the commedia dell’arte in the piece while pretty much eschewing anything deeper or darker. The cast includes Douglas Williams as the Don with Stephen Hegedus as Leporello, Colin Ainsworth, as Don Ottavio, Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna, Carla Huhtanen as Donna Elvira, Mireille Asselin as Zerlina, Olivier Laquerre as Masetto, and Gustav Andreassen as Commendatore. beautiful Ed Mirvish Theatre. David Fallis conducts.
Those season announcements just keep on coming. This time it’s the TSO. Here are my top picks.
Dynamic Duo: Hannigan & Storgårds – September 19th and 20th 2019. Barbara Hannigan conducts John Storgårds in Dutilleux’s Sur le même accord for Violin and Orchestra. He conducts her in Brett Dean’s “And once I played Ophelia” from Hamlet. There’s also some Beethoven, Haydn and Sibelius.
Massenet’s Thaïs (in concert) – November 7th and 9th 2019. Sir Andrew Davis conducts with Erin Wall in the title role and Lucas Meachem as Athanaël. Not a huge fan of this piece myself but I know there are Massenet fans out there.
Handel’s Messiah (in the Mozart arrangement) – December 17th to 22nd 2019. Alexander Shelley of the NACO conducts with Jane Archibald, Emily D’Angelo, Isaiah Bell, Russell Braun and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, K. 543 and Requiem, K. 626 – January 15th to 18th 2020. Sir Andrew Davis conducts with a vocal quartet from the Equilibrium Young Artists mentoring initiative, which I think is a Barbara Hannigan thing.
There’s also a ton of Beethoven. Apparently it’s a big anniversary. Full details here.