Unruly Sun is a song cycle in 19 parts with music by Matthew Ricketts (left) and words by Mark Campbell (below). It’s inspired by Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature and was performed last night in Mazzoleni Hall by tenor Karim Sulayman accompanied by piano and string quintet. I was much more affected by this piece than I expected to be. The text covers a lot of ground; Jarman’s cottage at Dungeness with it’s bleak shingle beach and nuclear power station, AIDS and the loss of friends, a bad porn movie and, of course, Jarman’s garden (which also of course inspired Tm Albery’s Garden of Vanished Pleasures), and anger at Thatcher’s Britain and her indifference to those suffering from AIDS (c.f. Jarman’s The Last of England). These ideas are linked together by sections about plants and flowers and quotes from (I think) John Donne. So, the AIDS crisis and the burning tire fire of Thatcherism meets the Georgian tradition that links the Elizabethans to Edmund Blunden and beyond. It’s beautifully constructed and the somewhat minimalist, evocative and rather beautiful music supports without imposing itself. And the performance was stunning; beautiful singing, beautiful playing and cool projected images. Continue reading
Tag Archives: 21c
Hymns to Night
The 21C Afterhours concert in Temerty Theatre last night featured a candle lit performance by a varied ensemble of conservatory students conducted by Brian Current. Brian did a great job of introducing the music; contextualizing it and suggesting what the audience might listen for. That could maybe be done more often with complex contemporary music.
The first piece was Bekah Simms’ Foreverdark. It’s a ten minute concertino for amplified cello, ensemble and electronics playing homage to heavy metal. It’s scored for a quite a large group including strings, brass, woodwinds and lots of percussion including a drum kit. It starts out very abrasively then becomes somewhat more lyrical and the then the texture lightens up but it’s still pretty complex. David Liam Roberts was the soloist and did an excellent job.
The 21C Festival gave us new works by Ian Cusson and Stewart Goodyear yesterday afternoon. The first half of the programme was three works by Ian Cusson inspired by paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. The first was The Garden of Earthly Delights scored for piano and violin and played by Duo Concertante (Timothy Steeves and Nancy Dahn). Slow melodic, evocative sections are interspersed with livelier, somewhat ecstatic, sections using the upper ranges of the violin extensively. I think it effectively catches the various moods of Bosch’s complex triptych.
After the Fires
Saturday evening’s Cinq à Sept concert in the 21C Festival at the Royal Conservatory was intriguing. The first half of the programme was a new song cycle, After the Fires, with words by Liza Balkan and music by Lembit Beecher. It set seven pieces about the 2020 fires on the central California coast and their aftermath based on interviews with local residents. It’s a really interesting piece scored for piano, clarinet, soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone. It’s very “text first”. Although the accompaniment is often intricate it never overpowers the words and there’s a real harmony between words and music. The mood varies but, given it’s about really awful events, it’s more elegiac and lyrical and even funny than angry or sad. It got a fine, nuanced performance from Henry From (piano), Zachary Gassenheimer (clarinet), Xin Wang (soprano), Andrea Ludwig (mezzo-soprano) and Korin Thomas-Smith (baritone). Continue reading
January is looking quite promising on both the music and theatre front but there’s not a lot of opera… Here’s what’s in my agenda.
January 11th to 14th the TSO have four performances of a concert that includes Mozart’s Requiem with a good looking line up of soloists.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Hannukwanzmas
So what’s on as we move into the holiday season?
Closing out November there’s Opera Revue at Castro’s this afternoon at 3pm and a couple of concerts on Wednesday. At lunchtime Wirth Prize winner Elisabeth Saint-Gelais and collaborative pianist Louise Pelletier present an intriguing looking programme in the RBA then at 7.30pm at Mazzoleni Hall the RCM’s Rebanks fellows are performing. Both are free but the Mazzoleni concert is ticketed and may be sold out.
The line up for this year’s (and a bit of next’s) 21C at the Royal Conservatory has been announced. The full line up is here.
I’m particularly interested in the Kronos Quartet concerts on December 8th and 9th; especially the latter which features “Music for Change” including a world premiere of a piece by Tanya Tagaq.
I’ll also want to see three of the concerts in the new year. On January 21st at 5pm there’s a Cinq à Sept concert in Temerty Hall which, among other things, features a new song cycle by Lembit Beecher and Lisa Balkan. The following day at 3pm in Koerner Hall there’s a concert of new works by Ian Cusson and Stewart Goodyear. Finally, on January 28th at 10pm in Temerty Hall Brian Current and the GGS New Music Ensemble have a candlelit concert of night related works including music by Bekkah Simms and R. Murray Schafer.
Lots of good stuff!
It was March 2017 and I was interviewing composer Brian Current over lunch. He mentioned having seen Geoff Sirett bouldering on the wall of the Royal Conservatory atrium and how he had an idea for a site specific opera based on the life of Glenn Gould. Eventually this became Gould’s Wall with a libretto by Liza Balkan. Announced and rescheduled more than once due to COVID it premiered last night under the auspices of Tapestry Opera and the conservatory’s 21C series.
The schedule for the Royal Conservatory’s 2022 21C festival has been announced. As usual it’s heavy on premieres and this year showcases the Kronos Quartet. The three things that are likely of most interest to OR readers are:
- The premiere of Gould’s Wall by Brian Current co-presented with Tapestry Opera. It’s a re-imagining of the life of Glenn Gould and features singers climbing along the wall of The Royal Conservatory’s atrium. It opens on January 12th and runs until the 16th.
- Marc Neikrug’s A Song by Mahler gets a single performance on January 15th at 8pm in Koerner Hall. It tells the story of a singer and her husband coming to terms with Alzheimer’s.
- A recital by Gerald Finley and Julius Drake at 3pm on January 23rd in Koerner Hall. This features the premiere of a new song cycle by Marc-Anthony Turnage plus lots of other goodies.
The full line up and ticket information is here.
Soundstreams have announced their 2020/21 season and hopefully we will get to see some of it! As ever there’s loads of good stuff starting with Steve Reich being in Toronto for his 85th birthday in April 2021. Other stuff that gets me excited includes:
- Huang Ruo’s The Book of Mountain and Seas as part of 21C at Koerner in January 2021. This features the vocal ensemble Ars Nova Copenhagen and puppets!
- Chan Ka Nin’s A Dragon’s Tale. It’s a co-pro with Tapestry and promises a waterfront extravaganza of western and eastern musical traditions. That’s coming in June next year.
- May 2021 sees a line up of Toronto’s finest performing works by Claude Vivier plus a new commission from Christopher Mayo. That’s going to be in the very intimate Temerty Theatre at the RCM
Plus Electric Messiah, Encounters and more. Full details here.