Driftwood Theatre’s Bard’s Bus Tour touched down at Withrow Park yesterday evening in near perfect conditions for their lightly updated musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. D. Jeremy Smith’s production is cleverly constructed to cover off all the bases with a cast of only eight and with the minimal staging possible for an outdoor touring production. The updating makes the Mechanicals into Oshawa auto workers. The music is largely integral; parts of the text being set to music by Kevin Fox and Tom Lillington further adapted and performed by Alison Beckwith with support from various members of the cast. There are cuts and the whole piece runs about an hour and forty five minutes without an interval.
The main stage concert for TSM at Koerner Hall last night was given by the Art of Time Ensemble with vocalists John Southworth and Sarah Slean. It’s my first encounter with Art of Time have been around for about ten years and specialise in cross genre collaborations inspired by their founder, pianist Andrew Burashko.
Last night was classical meets singer songwriter. There was an introductory piece by Christos Hatzis, some Schubert, plenty of Gershwin and lashings of Leonard Cohen plus much more (there was no set list and I didn’t take notes). It’s rather out of my usual zone but I enjoyed. Southworth is a really quirky vocalist, exemplified by a rather weird version of The Old Folks at Home; which needed to be weird! Slean is quite a performer; good voice, very funny, great mover. The ensemble was terrific across the board. I’m sold. There are lots of reasons to stretch the boundaries of classical performance. Larry Beckwith does it very well with his Confluence series. Here’s another example.
The late show, also at Koerner, featured Jonathan Crow, Katya Poplyansky, Minkyoung Lee and Allison Rich in a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in B-flat Major Op. 130 but with a twist. They played the full original version in which the Grosse Fuge Op. 133 forms the finale. So, basically, an hour long string quartet! It was very well done though I confess late Beethoven at 10.30 pm was straining the grey matter.
Photo credit: Dale Butteril
Collectìf’s latest show for the Toronto Summer Music Festival at Walter Hall last night was called Beyond Perception: What Haunts Us Now. It presented three new multimedia works each curated and directed by one of the trio of singers. The first piece, by Whitney O’Hearne featured arrangements of French works; both folk and classical that deal with the idea of La Dame Blanche; by turns sorceress or virgin bride. Turning the idea of male defined female transgression upside down to celebrate women’s agency, O’Hearn combined arrangements of the chosen music for combinations of three voices and piano with soft focus atmospheric video rather reminiscent of Collectìf’s Winterreise show at Heliconian Hall. The singing was beautiful and the concept intriguing. Top notch accompaniment by Trevor Chartrand.
It’s been rumoured for weeks but now it’s confirmed. Alexander Neef will leave the COC at the end of the 2020/21 season to head up L’Opéra de Paris. I don’t think anybody should be surprised. He’s a relatively young guy with a lot of working years ahead of him. He’s been in Toronto eleven years. It’s probably for the best for everybody that he moves onwards and upwards. Toronto will miss him. He’s been, in my view, a force for good here but, realistically, could he have continued to be transformational? I doubt anybody could. Has he solved, or would he solved, all the challenges facing the COC? No he hasn’t. Would anybody have done better? I doubt it.
There are a couple of interesting concerts coming up in the last week of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. On the 24th at 7.30pm in Walter Hall you can see Collectìf in a “spooky” programme. Collectìf is a group started by Danika Lorèn and friends. They do shows that incorporate staging, art song and video and they are never boring. (They also do adult cabaret but that’s another story!). Wednesday’s show is called Beyond Perception: What Haunts Us Now and features three sections. The first is built around the theme of La Dame Blanche, the second features Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and the last deals with the myth of Daphne and Apollo. Recommended. And as an added incentive for operaramblings readers there’s a discount code OR10 which will get you $10 tickets. Tickets from the Royal Conservatory Box Office online, in person or by phone.
The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.
I swear this image is the most random opera related thing that has dropped into my lap in an age.