It’s July 29th 1951; the opening night of the first Bayreuth Festival since the end of the war. Noted anti-Nazi Wilhelm Furtwängler will conduct the Festival Orchestra in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from the Festspielhaus. It will be broadcast live by Süddeutsche Rundfunk(*) and will be relayed by stations in Germany, Austria, France and Sweden. You are sitting in front of your valve radio because commercial transistor models are not yet on the market. You can’t record it to listen to little because tape reorders are almost as rare in 1951 as transistor radios.
So, it’s cancellation time again. Everything is off as far as “live” is concerned until at least January 26th in Ontario. That means that a whole raft of concerts at the RCM are postponed/off including Gould’s Wall and Gerry Finley. Morgan Paige-Melbourne and Eve Egoyan are going ahead as livestreams. Check the RCM website for details. The COC has suspended single ticket sales for Madama Butterfly until things become clearer. Meanwhile the rest of the world, mostly, is getting on with it. I’m told it’s called the 0 micron variant because that’s roughly the diameter of Doug Ford’s brain.
Last night the first of three concerts at Lutheran Redeemer Church in the West End Micro Music Festival took place. It was an exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet and proved most interesting in that regard. The use of extended technique has long been part of the string quartet repertoire but in the first part of last night’s programme two works by Nicole Lizée explored much further than that using additional “instruments”; whirly/whizzy things, strange blue/purple contraptions that made their own sounds and were also used as bows and sheets of paper rustled in front of fans. Norma Beecroft’s Amplified Quartet with Tape augmented the four instruments with recorded electronics. Whether this was all pre-recorded or processed as the performance proceeded (or both) I couldn’t say. One has to admire the versatility of the interro quartet (Steve Sang Koh and Eric Kim-Fujita – vilolins, Maxime Despax -viola and Sebastian Ostertag – cello) in handling all the requirements. It also really made me glad to be back listening “live”. This kind of music demands a kind of distraction free attention that’s really hard to conjure up in one’s own living room.
I came across Hans Thomalla’s 2019 opera Dark Spring when the record label Oehms gave me access to a pre-release of the CD version which is to be released in a couple of days time. Listening to a couple of scenes and looking at the photos in the accompanying booklet suggested to me that this was really an opera I needed to see to fully appreciate and, indeed, it turns out that there’s a lot going on that isn’t explicit in the libretto. Fortunately, as it turns out, there’s a full video recording on Vimeo. It’s not the greatest technical quality of all time but it is drawn from the same live performances at the work in Mannheim in the fall of last year as the CDs. The CDs are excellent high quality (48kHz, 24 bit) CD quality. So I think there’s a case for tracking down the video and the CD recording.
Toronto City Opera performed a concert version of Verdi’s Nabucco at St. Andrew’s church on King Street yesterday afternoon. It was strictly a concert version with the principals singing off music stands with no attempt at interaction. The principals were costumed, which helped keep straight who was who and recitative was eliminated in favour of a spoken summary before each scene. That made sense as there were no surtitles. Accompaniment was piano.
Act 1 Finale. L to R. Lauren Estey (Anna), Cristina Pisani (Abigalille), Lillian Brooks (Fenena), Corey Arnold (Ismaele), Michael Robert-Broder (Nabucco), Dylan Wright (Zaccaria), with the TCO Chorus
My review of the Glenn Gould School’s production of Ana Sokolović’s Svadba is now up on Opera Canada.
On Stage, Left to Right: Camila Montefusco, Maria Milenic, Elena Howard-Scott,
Chelsea Pringle-Duchemin, Mélissa Danis, Katelyn Bird. In Front: Peter Tiefenbach. Photo: Kjel Erickson
The third SOS – Sketch Opera Singers from Tapestry Opera is now up on Youtube. It’s quite similar to the previous episodes with inspired lunacy from KrossØver (Teiya Kasahara, Keith Klassen, Krisztina Szabó, Korin Thomas-Smith and a snail but definitely not Simone McIntosh). I think it’s a bit darker and a bit weirder than earlier episodes, even a bit surreal in places. The sketch where people are helped through break-ups by soft toys singing well known arias comes to mind. Still, it’s half an hour of (mostly) harmless fun. Definitely worth a watch.
Faint signs of something approaching normality are in the air. Following on from the TSO’s season announcement which promises shows with a live audience (unknown terms and conditions apply), Toronto Summer Music has announced that concerts in the third week of the festival will also have live listeners (as well as live streaming). There’s a lineup of nineteen concerts at Grace Church on the Hill and tickets are on sale now at $50/each.
My “Final Word” article which appeared in the last print edition of Opera Canada has now been published on-line. It looks at how audience experience of on-line content during the pandemic may impact the marketing and production strategies of both larger and smaller opera companies.
I’ve seen Francis Poulenc’s monodrama La voix humaine many times and always find it troubling despite that the fact that it is often a vehicle for rather good performances. I was intrigued then by VOICEBOX’ decision to present alongside the Jean Cocteau play on which the opera is based. It really helped me get to grips with what I find uncomfortable about the work.