TCO’s Nabucco

Toronto City Opera performed a concert version of Verdi’s Nabucco at St. Andrew’s church on King Street yesterday afternoon.  It was strictly a concert version with the principals singing off music stands with no attempt at interaction.  The principals were costumed, which helped keep straight who was who and recitative was eliminated in favour of a spoken summary before each scene.  That made sense as there were no surtitles.  Accompaniment was piano.


Act 1 Finale. L to R. Lauren Estey (Anna), Cristina Pisani (Abigalille), Lillian Brooks (Fenena), Corey Arnold (Ismaele), Michael Robert-Broder (Nabucco), Dylan Wright (Zaccaria), with the TCO Chorus

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MixTape opened at Crow’s Theatre last night.  It’s a one woman show conceived, written and performed by Zorana Sadiq.  It’s a complex show and I describe it with some trepidation a i think the whole is considerably greater than the sum of the parts into which I must decompose it.  Structurally it’s a mixture of story telling, stand up comedy, recital and recorded music facilitated by Sadiq’s training as a classical singer; Master of Music as she half proudly, half tongue in cheek informs us at one point.  The music is eclectic; ranging from Neil Diamond and Michael Jackson to Messiaen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  It all points to life stages and life events and to a growing realisation that music, and indeed sound, can be much more than we imagine in our first explorations of it.  Some of the music is recorded but much is performed, expertly, by Sadiq.  There are also, of course, references to the infamous “mx tape” and the limitations of cassette tape technology.

1 Zorana Sadiq in MIXTAPE. photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic

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Cigarettes and anisette

songfromtheuproarMissy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s opera Song From the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt is based on the journals of Isabelle Eberhardt; a Swiss explorer, mystic and writer who roamed the deserts of North Africa before her untimely death at the age of 27.  It was conceived as a multi-media opera and staged as such at The Kitchen in New York in 2012.  A studio CD recording was made by the original cast soon after.  One can get a s sense for the look and feel of the stage piece from the trailer for the original show which is still available on Youtube.

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transcendentTranscendent is a CD from the Asia/America New Music Institute (AANMI).  It features works by six American and Asian composers performed by Davóne Tines, Matthew Aucoin and members of the AANMI Ensemble in various combinations.

The first set is two settings of Walt Whitman by Matthew Aucoin for baritone and piano (.  The poems are The Sleepers and A clear Midnight.  They alternate a sparsely accompanied lyrical vocal line, beautifully sung by Tines, with much denser passages for the piano, played here by the composer.  It’s interesting music and supports the text well.

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Palej premiere

This one’s a bit different.  COSA (Centre for Opera Study and Appreciation) have a stream of a new opera by Norbert Palej coming up.  It’s called The Art of Love and it’s drawn from various works by Ovid including the obvious one but also, as best I can tell, Medicamina Faciei Femineae and Metamorphoses.  It’s sung in Latin (there are subtitles for those whose Latin is less than fluent) with animations by Sean Stanley.  There are two overlapping casts with some very decent singers including Ryan Downey and Alex Hajek.  It’s playing tonight and the next three nights at 7.30pm with alternating casts.


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Oldest living Tosca

The recently released recording of Puccini’s Tosca from the Wiener Staatsoper was recorded in 2019 but, as best I can tell, the production, by Margarethe Wallmann, dates back to 1957 and it feels that old.  It’s entirely literal and, beyond basic blocking, the singers appear to have been left to their own devices as far as acting goes.  It also clearly was not designed with video in mind.  Cavaradossi’s execution is quite remarkably unsanguine.


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Gianni Schicchi

The COC’s production of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi directed by Amy Lane is now available to watch for free, for the next six months, at .  It’s given a 1950s Italian setting but otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward approach reliant on good ensemble directing and acting, which it gets.  It’s livened up by video projections by Alexander Gunnarsson, which come over really very well on the film.


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Bach cello suites II

The second of three concerts of the Bach cello suites prresented by Confluence Concerts and the Toronto Bach Festival is now up on Confluence’s Youtube channel.  There’s an hour or so of really nice cello playing with Kieran Campbell playing the Suite no.4 and Eleanor Fry performing the Suite no.6.  The most interesting segments though are hearing the musicians talk about their rather unusual instruments.  Kieran was playing an early 18th century instrument that is quite a bit larger than a modern cello and has no spike at the foot.  It’s strung with gut of course though two of the strings are metal wrapped.  Eleanor’s instrument is a modern reproduction of a baroque five stringed cello.  I had no idea such a thing existed!  As with all the Confluence streams, technical quality is impeccable.  Definitely worth a look.


Lieder with orchestra from Elīna Garanča

garancathielemannThere’s a new CD of live recordings from the Salzburg festival of orchestral songs by Wagner and Mahler performed by mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Christian Thielemann.

The first set is Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder recorded in 2020.  It’s a very listenable account with Garanča in full control and Thielemann, as ever, getting a nuanced and detailed account from the orchestra.  Arguably the performance of five of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, recorded earlier this year, is even better.  Garanča’s smokey mezzo seems especially well suited to these songs, though heaven knows, there’s stiff competition with many excellent recordings of these pieces by both mezzos and baritones.  Again the accompaniment is very apt.

The recording, made in the Großesfestspielhaus, is very clear with good balance between voice and orchestra.  Full texts and translations are included.  Well worth a listen.