Last night saw the first performance of a run of eleven in Against the Grain Theatre’s revival of their 2013 hit Figaro’s Wedding. It’s essentially the same show. Director/librettist Joel Ivany has made a number of tweaks and updates but the main differences lie in what the singers bring to their characters.
Last night the TSO gave the last concert of the Decades Project. Starting, inevitably, with a sesqui, the first half continued with a fine performance of Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with Nicola Benedetti as soloist. In some ways it’s an odd piece to use to characterise the 1930s (but then so is Carmina Burana!). It’s high romantic in tone and style. Lush even. It’s also extremely well crafted with a rather luscious part for the soloist played quite beautifully by Ms. Benedetti.
Last night I saw the alternate cast of the COC’s Magic Flute. Owen McCausland swaps First Armed Man for Tamino with Andrew Haji, Kirsten MacKinnon comes in as Pamina, Phillip Addis is Papageno and Matt Boehler is Sarastro. The changes don’t really affect things much at all. All the new faces are very good. MacKinnon is a very perky Pamina which works well with Addis who has maybe a bit more of the “cheeky chappy” than Hopkins. Fans of Owen McCausland and Andrew Haji will see exactly the differences in timbre and vocal technique one would expect but the interpretation is pretty much the same. Overall, I would say that someone not very familiar with these singers would scarcely notice any differences. What I did notice is how much better this production looks from Ring 3 than from the Orchestra. Getting something of a “plan view” makes the antics during the overture look less cluttered and frantic and the trials scene is much more effective. And the sound is better too.
Phillip Addis, currently one of two Papagenos at the COC, together with pianist Emily Hamper, gave yesterday’s lunchtime recital in the RBA. First up were Ravel’s settings of Jules Rénard’s Histoires Naturelles. These are quirky, fun pieces with sometimes quite complex, impressionistic piano lines. They seemed well suited to Addis’ full, characterful baritone and his obvious zest for comedy. The text twists and turns both linguistically and as narrative calling for acute timing in places, which Addis delivered.
The second set was Waypoints; four songs by Erik Ross to texts by Zachariah Wells (both of whom were present). The first piece, Broken was being given for the first time. The texts are interesting and bear rereading. The settings, often repeating phrases over an over, I found a bit uneven. They are essentially conventional and tonal ranging from the rather fierce setting of the second song, I, to almost Broadwayish in the final number, Waypoints. They are pleasant enough pieces and they got a sympathetic treatment from Addis and Hamper but I’ve heard a lot more interesting Canadian art song.
The performance finished up with an arrangement by Hamper of the lullabye, The Rainbow Connection. Again pleasant but not very substantial. Which, I suppose, was my overall reaction to the concert.
We are moving into busy season for the next two or three weeks. Next week, Tuesday sees a lunchtime recital in the RBA by Phillip Addis with song cycles by Maurice Ravel and Erik Ross. Wednesday sees a concert staging of Salvatore Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower (Luci mie traditrici). It tells the story of Carlos Gesualdo’s murder of his wife and lover. Performers include Shannon Mercer, Geoffrey Sirett, Scott Belluz and Keith Klassen. It’s at Walter Hall at 7.30pm with a pre-show with the composer at 6.30pm. Sciarrino is involved in other events connected with the New Music Festival all week. Thursday is opening night for the COC’s Götterdämmerung at the Four Seasons Centre with an early kick off time of 6pm. Alternatively the TSO are doing the Fauré Requiem with Karina Gauvin and Russell Braun on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Music Theatre Wales’s touring production of The Killing Flower at Buxton Festival. Photograph: Clive Barda
Not so much on this week. Tuesday COC chorus member and guitarist Doug MacNaughton, currently appearing as Antonio in Marriage of Figaro, has a noon hour concert on Tuesday in the RBA featuring a new piece by Dean Burry and other works ranging from John Rutter to Donald Swann. Then on Friday CASP have an evening recital at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse featuring Philip Addis and Emily Hamper.
Siegfried and Marriage of Figaro continue at the COC. The last performance of the former is today at 2pm while the latter plays Wednesday and Friday at 7.30pm.