Tuesday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was a really well thought out programme by two of the prize winners from last year’s Montreal International Music Competition; soprano Meredith Wolgemuth and pianist Jinhee Park. The first set was a nicely characterised version of the quite varied Grieg Sechs Lieder op.48. Most of these are fairly sentimental German Romantic texts but Meredith and Jinhee injected lightness and humour where it was appropriate in, for instance, “Lauf der Welt”.
ARC’s production of Marius von Mayenburg’s 2012 play Martyr opened at the Aki Studio last night. It’s presented in an English translation by Maja Zade and directed by Rob Kempson. I think it’s more than a just a direct German to English translation. names have been changed for instance and there are definite shifts in directorial approach from the Berlin production. I think the best way to understand what this is all about is to start with the original German version and how it may have looked to a Berlin audience and then look at how time, space and directorial decisions may affect audience reception.
A Woman’s Voice is a record with 84 minutes of music for female voices and piano by Alice Ping Yee Ho. It’s a mixture of songs and excerpts from operas and a plkay. All but one track feature Toronto based artists who include no less than three Norcop prize winners. Overall, I found the songs more fun to listen to than the opera excerpts though they were interesting in their own way too and I’m seriously intrigued by a couple of them that I haven’t seen but now want to.
I think a lot of my motivation for listening to The Beauty of Innuendos was a desire to learn what on Earth the composer, Frank Felice, meant by “consonant adiatonicism”. I’m still not sure I really know. In any event there’s some enjoyable music on the record though I did find it a bit of a mixed bag.
There are four “song cycles” on the record. The first is Four Songs of Jennifer Haines which sets four texts about the poet’s break up with her (female) lover in the wastes of Montana, thus creating a new genre of High Plains lesbian break up song. I wasn’t much enamoured of this piece. It’s workmanlike but neither the texts nor the melodic, largely tonal setting really did it for me.
Yesterday’s RBA concert was an intriguing mix of music and poetry presented by soprano Zi Xin Emily Lapin (soprano), Jialiang Zhu (piano) and Kathryn Knowles (polymath with her poet on). It was a carefully curated programme and it featured surtitles throughout (major bonus points for that).
Oliver Mears’ production of Verdi’s Rigoletto recorded at Covent Garden in 2021 looks and feels like the work of a British theatre director. There’s nothing particularly weird about it. The Personenregie is careful and precise and the emphasis is on text and story telling. The opera house element perhaps comes into play in the rather impressive visuals including an extremely dramatic storm scene.
Silent Tears: The Last Yiddish Tango is a CD of songs based on the recollections of Holocaust survivors. Some of the songs deal with events during the Holocaust and others with the trauma of survivors. There are two main sources for the lyrics. One is the Baycrest Holocaust Surviviors Poetry Project facilitated by Dr. Paula David. The poems produced during that process were published in 1995 and adapted for this project. Other songs are based on the writings of Holocaust survivor Molly Applebaum who escaped by being buried under a barn in a small wooden box. The English texts have been adapted for this project by Dan Rosenberg and translated into Yiddish, others were originally written in Polish and remain in that tongue.
Before watching the new recording of The Ring from Deutsche Oper Berlin I set out my expectations based on the bonus materials on the recording and my previous engagement with productions by Stefan Herheim. Fifteen hours or so of watching later how do they stand up?
If you have been following this saga from the beginning you have probably already concluded that Herheim’s approach is radical in some ways and very, very detail oriented. If anything, in Götterdämmerung, it gets denser and more complex with some of the central production features used in somewhat different ways. It’s also spectacular. Not least because of the contributions of lighting designer Ulrich Niepel and video designer Torge Møller. They were important contributors to the first three operas. Here they are even more crucial. This opera also has more going on across the full width of the stage more of the time so it’s actually much harder to film. So let’s get into it.