Will They Ever Nomi and Medusa’s Children

There’s a new video up on the Confluence Concerts Youtube channel.  It’s a lecture recital by counter-tenor Ryan McDonald about Klaus Nomi.  It’s an interesting and scholarly attempt to situate Nomi in the context of both his own time and place (1970s/80s New York City) and in the context of contemporary queerness in the classical music world.  There’s also some singing.  Ryan, accompanied by Ivan Jovanovic, performs some of the material associated with Nomi including a couple of “diva arias” and songs by Dowland, Schumann and Purcell.

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Songs From the House of Death

Songs From the House of Death is a new song cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra by Ian Cusson.  It was premiered in April by Krisztina Szabó and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.  It’s a setting of three texts from Joy Harjo‘s How We Became Human.  Ian has a knack of finding really strong texts by Indigenous poets and these are no exception.  The longest (13 minutes of the 23 minute work) is “Songs From the House of Death; Or How to Make it Through the End of a Relationship”. This is an evocation of death and impermanence and memory.  The setting is very varied.  The opening pizzicato strings are barely audible but it rapidly builds to blend densely orchestrated (it’s a big orchestra) and very high energy music with much gentler and more lyrical passages; sometimes using the concert master as a soloist.  This fits the changing moods of the text and, as I’ve come to expect with Ian, the music is always rooted in the text.

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Shoah Songbook 3 – Poland

The third instalment of the Likht Ensemble’s Shoah Songbook project features music from Poland; specifically from the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau.  It’s available now on the Harold Green Jewish Theatre channel on Youtube.  Here’s the link.  There’s about 12 minutes of useful introductory material and 25 minutes of music.

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Another Day

The latest commission from the Canadian Art Song Project is Another Day by Abigail Richardson-Schulte.  It’s a setting of six poems by schoolchildren on the theme of refugees and human rights.  It’s now available on video performed by soprano Anna-Sophie Neher with Carl Matthieu Neher at the piano.

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Twice as twisted

Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle is a twisted little opera with wonderful music.  Atom Egoyan’s film Felicia’s Journey is equally twisted and also derived at root from the Bluebeard material.  So it makes sense to mash them up and that, essentially, is what Egoyan has done in the latest on-line presentation from the COC.

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Lots of Beckwith

John Beckwith turned 95 a little while ago and there’s some good celebratory material up on Youtube.  Confluence Concerts are rereleasing their three concerts from last year.  The first one is here.  Plus, Canadian Art Song project have a really lovely film of Krisztinaa Szabó and Steven Philcox performing The Four Short Songs to texts by Kandinsky.  The location filming is the work of Jenn Nicholls and Patrick Hagerty and it’s gorgeous.  The performance is rather good too.

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Art for Peace

Copy of Art for Peace_NewsletterThis just in…

TORONTO — Today, Opera InReach announces Art for Peace, a streamed concert in support of individuals impacted by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The concert will be streamed on March 15th beginning at 6:30pm EST. All proceeds will be split between the BCU Foundation, the Red Cross, and Dobrodiy Club. Donations are being accepted through the link in the linked PDF.

The concert will feature Ukrainian national music, art song, folk music, and poetry, alongside support from musicians from all genres and styles. Exploring themes of resilience, hope, and justice, Art for Peace aims to raise funds for Ukrainian individuals in need while also demanding peace in Ukraine. Along with Opera InReach, Art for Peace is supported by the Ukrainian Art Song Project, Tapestry Opera, Against the Grain Theatre, and individual artists from around the world.

Art for Peace Press Release containing full details of who is performing etc.

Recent webstreams

Here’s a quick round up of recent webstreams.  The main event is the concert streamed by the COC over the weekend featuring Jane Archibald with the COC Orchestra and Johannes Debus.  There’s about forty five minutes of music and it’s predictably classy music making though it’s emotionally taxing to look at an empty Four Seasons centre again.  The program includes Mozart. Handel, Strauss, Massenet, Gounod and Bernstein.  Arguably it’s a bit predictable but both musical and technical values are high.  It’s avaiable free until August 27th via registration at the COC website.

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A tale of three panels

I spent three hours earlier today listening to three panel discussions about the issues involved in presenting Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.  The overall event was titled Grappling with Madama Butterfly Today: Representation, Reclamation, Re-imagination.  They were three very different panels as we shall see.  But first some context.  The event was co-presented by Confluence Concerts, Amplified Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, and the Humanities Initiative at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.  One of the “triggers” for the event was the planned revival of Madama Butterfly at the COC (now to be done as an “on-line” event of some description) though one might have listened to the discussions without actually realising that.

The first panel consisted of COC boss Perryn Leach with soprano Teiya Kasahara, soprano Jaclyn Grossman and Boston Lyric’s Jessica Johnson Brock.  I expected it to tackle the problematic nature of Madama Butterfly head on, as indeed the other two panels did, but it didn’t.  It got sidetracked into essentially blind alleys about whether the work should be performed at all and whether one should always cast Asians in Asian roles and such.  I got the strong feeling that no-one involved wanted to touch the issue of why, in 2022, the COC had planned to present a thoroughly unreflective, indeed deeply racist and sexist, production of the work.  And that in the context of a season of three problematic operas presented in equally unambitious productions.  Indeed, so unambitious that Leech’s deputy has described Mozart’s The Magic Flute as a “whimsical comedy”.  Brigid Brophy must be gyrating in her crypt.  Why was the discussion so anodyne?  I think it comes down to power dynamics.  Perryn Leech advanced views that I think can be summed up as “as long as we present enough new work (preferably short stuff on small stages) and do a few token events like this one it’s OK to give the bougie donors their fix.  Even if that fix is racist and misogynist.  Nobody challenged this.  After all, if you are a young woman trying to make her way in the deadly world of opera why would you call out the most powerful person in Canadian opera?

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