The “postponed from the fall” double bill from the Glenn Gould School finally streamed on the Koerner Hall channel last night. The first piece was likely familiar to most viewers; Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins given in piano score in a production by Amanda Smith. The concept here is that Anna 2, rather than being a dancer, is some kind of on-line celebrity exploiting dating sites to bring her fame and fortune. The production had originally been designed for an audience and used moveable plexi-glass shields to ensure social distancing. It also made extensive use of projected conversation bubbles, emojis and other social media effects. This seems to have been ramped up in post production to add picture-in-picture effects and maybe to make the lighting; already a sort of rave inspired blend of blues and pinks with touches of rather lurid green, even more dramatic. With on screen subtitles it was arresting but maybe just a little too busy to fully process!
The sixth iteration of Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah unsurprisingly morphed from a live show in the intimate setting of the Drake Underground to a streamed video recorded on location in various places in Toronto. There is much that was the same as previously and some interesting differences. The selection of arias and choruses is very similar to previous years starting with “Comfort Ye”; arranged for all four singers and finishing up with “Hallelujah”.
Next Monday, December 21st, Essential Opera is streaming a new one act opera for three singers and string quartet by Monica Pearce called December. Julia and Natasha are newly in a relationship and are visiting Julia’s parents for the first time for the holidays. We are promised a light hearted piece about travel, holiday stress, family and relationships. It premieres at 8pm (Nova Scotia time I think) and it’s ticketed. Cast, crew and ticketing information is here.
Against the Grain’s Messiah/Complex is a rewarding, actually quite fascinating, piece of work. It’s condensed to around 80 minutes but most of the well known numbers feature in some form. Each takes the form of a filmed vignette filmed somewhere in Canada. Some locations are urban, some are very much not; from David Pecaut Square to the high Arctic. Twelve soloists and a number of different choirs are used. Some pieces are sung in the original English but five other languages are also used. The non-English pieces are not translations in fact they subvert Charles Jennens’ theology in some really interesting ways. The TSO (or at least a bit of it) conducted by Johannes Debus provides the accompaniment. The performances are good, the filming is excellent and the technical quality is first rate. You can watch it for yourself at this link.
Opera Atelier’s fall show Something Rich and Strange was originally conceived as a show that could be given before a (limited) live audience as well as via web stream. That’s obviously constraining compared to a show that is created without a fourth wall and can include location filming. All the other constraints of these strange times had also to be observed. Despite this there was much to like in a show that presented a number of scenes from the 17th and 18th century repertoire plus a couple of “neo-baroque” pieces composed by Edwin Huizinga.
Tapestry’s SOS Sketch Opera Singers does for the staid old world of opera what I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue did for the quiz show. Five of Toronto’s finest artistes, in the guise of the cross-over group; Krossøver, are, in the immortal words of Humphrey Lyttleton, “given silly things to do”.
Usually by December I’ve had a pretty good chance to see the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Not this year of course. So it was good to see at least a few of them in a stream of a short concert recorded at the Aga Khan Museum.
I just watched the first in a projected series of “aria films” by Carson Gilmore. The first one features Morte col fiero aspetto from Hasse’s Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra. It features the rather impressive British mezzo Rachel Labovitch and it’s rather dark and disturbing. My sort of thing!
In other news the COC has announced a series of “solo spotlights” with some members of the COC orchestra. The first one is on December 15th with Marie Bédard. All the details are here.
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.
My sense of time, or rather lack of one, has made these “upcoming” posts a bit irregular. So anyway these are things I haven’t mentioned so far.
- Tonight at 7pm on Youtube, Confluence Concerts present the Hutcheons with a talk on Creativity and Aging based on their book Four Last Songs. I’ve read the book and had (used to have) some of the best conversations with Doctors Linda and Michael so this should be good. Musical excerpts from Messiaen and Leonard Cohen will be performed by Larry Beckwith, Robert Kortgaard and Patricia O’Callaghan. Free.
- Wednesday at 8pm on Youtube it’s Tapestry with SOS – Sketch Opera Singers episode 1. Singing peas on a dinner plate. The inner thoughts of evil babies. An attention-starved man who bursts into dramatic song whenever he steps into a light. Check out the teaser that’s already up on Youtube. Also free.
- Saturday at 7pm is Opera Atelier’s Something Rich and Strange which is a baroque pasticcio. It’s streamed via the Koerner Hall streaming site and tickets are $25. Check out OA’s website for details.
- December 13th at 8pm is Against the Grain’s multicultural Messiah/Complex. Free but registration required.
- December 17th at 8pm is Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah.. This is the latest iteration of what has become an annual event but reenvisaged for the web. I was on a Zoom call last Monday with the director and music director. Sounds like it should be good. Also free but registration required.
The usual suspects (check earlier posts for recommendations) are still also mostly producing new content.