One swallow and all that

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.


Voices off

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.


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Save the Foundry

The Dominion Foundry complex is a group of heritage buildings just to the north of Canary Village.  They aren’t the prettiest buildings in Toronto but they are pretty much the last surviving remnant of the West Don Lands industrial heritage.  There’s a study under way to assess the feasibility of turning them into an arts and community complex which is something the east end needs.  More details on that proposal here.  Today I learned that the province is planning on razing the whole complex without any kind of community consultation or input.foundry

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Opera Canada at 60

OC-60th-Anniversary-Issue2020 marks the 60th anniversary of Opera Canada magazine; though it wasn’t always called that and it’s had incarnations as the “newsletter” of the Canadian Opera Guild and the house organ of the COC before becoming the independent publication it is today.  To mark the anniversary there is a glossy 60th anniversary special edition of the mag.  It’s 94 pages long and printed on much better paper than the regular mag.  It’s really quite classy despite lacking any content at all from me!

The content is quite different from the regular quarterly publication.  There are no reviews of either live shows or recordings for example.  Rather, it features some historical essays; Christopher Holle on the story of opera in Canada, Wayne Gooding on the history of the magazine, Natasha Gautier on the troubled history of Black Opera and various OC regulars on their “greatest moment” in Canadian opera history.  There are also some interesting cross-generational features.  There are six extended conversations between  a young opera professional and an older member of the same specialty.  For example Jordan da Souza talks to Timothy Vernon while Wallis Giunta and Judith Forst converse.  In another feature ten singers of the younger generation explain who their Canadian icons are and why.  Finally there’s a light hearted series of predictions for the next sixty years from luminaries ranging from Alexander Neef to Topher Mokrzewski  (Topher is funnier).

It’s one of those publications that’s kind of interesting to read between the lines because buried in there is the diversity of Canada and how it reacts to opera as well as some very clear generational divides.  The 60th anniversary edition should be on sale until March at the usual Opera Canada retailoutlets (though which of them are actually functioning right now is anybody’s guess).  Or you can contact


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Creativity and Aging – Confluence Salon

Does creativity follow an arc with age?  Is a period of peak creativity followed by inevitable decline or is there, perhaps, a qualitatively different, kind of creativity in the later years of life?  Linda and Michael Hutcheon; literary scholar and physician, explored this in their book Four Last Songs, which looked at the later works of Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, and Britten.  Last night they appeared in the Confluence Concerts Salon series to provide further thoughts with reference to the works of Messiaen and Leonard Cohen.  Their thoughts were interwoven with performances of works by Messiaen and Cohen performed by Robert Kortgaard, Patricia O’Callaghan and Larry Beckwith.  There’s no need to read my description of the show.  It’s freely available on Youtube.


Minimalist Lohengrin

There’s obvious irony in a Hungarian directing Wagner’s Lohengrin; even more so when that director sees in Wagner’s Brabant parallels with Orban’s Hungary.  It’s quite interesting to see how this plays out in Árpád Schilling’s production recorded at Staatsoper Stuttgart in 2018.  The first thing to say is that this is an extremely minimalist production with a circle on stage , a curved back wall and not much else, though a bed appears in Act 3.  It’s very monochrome; the stage and the characters are all more or less in shades of grey until late in the second act when the Vier Edelknaben (here definitely women) and then the chorus appears in colourful but still eclectically modern, casual outfits.  The only real device for telling the story, apart, from the words and music, is the way groups of characters are arranged on stage.


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