Covid fan tutte is the best opera thing I’ve seen come out of the pandemic yet. It’s from Finnish National Opera and it uses the music of Così fan tutte (mostly) and a new libretto (in Finnish natch) to poke fun at every aspect of the current situation. To quote the blurb:
On stage, singers are rehearsing Die Walküre, when they are suddenly interrupted. As management has been laid off and the news of a global virus spreads rapidly, the Wagnerians are suddenly instructed to perform a modern satire on the situation.
It’s fully staged with a socially distanced orchestra and a virtual chorus. There appears to have been some sort of live audience in the house. They weren’t mucking about here. Both Karita Mattila and Esa-Pekka Salonen are involved. Bottom line; it’s very well done and genuinely funny with a few really sad bits like where a man sings an aria to his mother to the closed window of the old people’s home. There are subtitles for those whose Finnish isn’t up to it.
You can find it on Youtube on the Operavision channel. Brexit supporters should stay away as Operavision is funded by those nasty cultured foreigners, the EU.
Perhaps not unexpectedly the Metropolitan Opera has announced the cancellation of the balance of their 2020/21 season. They took the opportunity to announce the 2021/22 season at the same time. It’s quite interesting. There’s the first opera by an African-American composer; Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Looks like an all African American cast for that and the co-director and choreography is also African-American. There’s also Brett Dean’s Hamlet in the Glyndebourne production and with most of the Glyndebourne cast but not Barbara Hannigan. Brenda Rae sings Ophelia. I’m curious to see how the “surround sound” elements of Dean’s music work in such a big house. There’s also Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice that premiered in Los ngeles in February and was thus probably the last new major opera before the storm hit. So three new(ish) operas in one season. I don’t think I’ve seen that from the Met before.
Suppose, rather than a plummy BBC voiced narrator, that Benjamin Britten had chosen an animated dog in space to narrate The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and that, rather than use variations on a theme by Purcell he’d used extracts from contemporary Canadian composers he might just have come up something like the Kingston Symphony and Gazelle Automations’ Harmon in Space. Or maybe not. But in any case this new series for kids mixes animation with real musicians to create a guide to the instruments of the orchestra. The first episode (of a planned twelve) deals with the flute. And what rhymes with “flute”? Well “cute” of course. And it is. Very. You can find it on the KSO’s Youtube channel (subscribe for future episodes) or via this direct link.
Last night the first concert in Confluence’s virtual season went live. It features the music of Billy Strayhorn curated by Andrew Downing. Now jazz is not usually my thing but I found this concert interesting in many ways. Strayhorn was unusual. He was a poor African American who aspired to be a classical composer and pianist. Realising the virtual impossibility of that in post WW2 America he took to jazz and dance band music and formed a very productive relationship with Duke Ellington. He was also gay and that, rather courageously for the time, comes out in his music. You can find out much more about Strayhorn in the most erudite chat between Andrew Downing and Professor Walter Vandeleur that precedes the music.
The panel discussion follow up to the presentation I described in an earlier post took place yesterday afternoon. It was an interesting panel; a dramaturg, a lighting designer, a couple of directors, a singer, the head of a small regional opera company etc. They were all interesting, thoughtful and well, nice, people but what was clearly missing was anyone who had ever held a position of influence in a major North American opera company or even anyone of contrarian views so the discussion did feel a bit tame.
The COC has announced a virtual (almost) fall season. It’s mainly community outreach with an emphasis on young people which is entirely consistent with conversations I’ve had with the COC (and indeed other companies).
In November there will be a three day festival of concerts from the Richard Bradshaw amphitheatre backed up by interviews etc.
We are starting to see full length, made for streaming content appearing rather than the rather variable quality, mainly amateur efforts of a few months ago. Here a couple of examples:
Jeff Crompton’s new chamber opera based on the life of jazz musician Buddy Bolden was due to premiere in Atlanta in June. It’s now been recorded and mixed with visuals for an online release on October 16th. It’s a 45 minute piece for five singers and saxophone trio. More details here. I think this one is free. I checked out bits of the free press preview and it seems interesting and well produced.
Decameron Opera Coalition; a collective of nine smaller opera companies in the US have come up with an innovative idea for a series of opera evenings. It’s based on Boccaccio’s Decameron, which tells of ten people who, in time of plague, isolate themselves and tell stories (some of them quite naughty as I recall). So, in our time of plague, each company has created a short opera plus there’s a collective intro and ending. They will go online on four Friday nights in October (9th/16th/23rd/30th) and stay available for a while. This one isn’t free. A ticket is $15 (US presumably) and covers all four shows. More details.
Canadian bassist (and much more) George Koller is giving a solo recital in aid of St. Mike’s COVID-19 fund. It’s resented by Canzona Chamber Players on their Youtube channel and by the looks of it fills the slot for this year’s Elizabeth Krehm memorial concert. It’s on September 27th at 7pm and it’s free but, of course, donations to St. Mike’s are encouraged.
Toronto’s Upper Canada Choristers and their Latin ensemble Cantemos will present music from Latin America in a concert titled Inti Ukana: A Latin American Tapestry. This was originally scheduled for May as a public performance but will now be live-streamed, with some pre-recorded elements, It’s on Friday, October 2nd at 7:30 p.m. It will be accessible through the choir’s website,