The opening concert of the 21C festival featured an all Osvaldo Golijov programme presented by Against the Grain Theatre. It was preceded by a very informative conversation between Joel Ivany and the composer. My main takeaway from that is that Golijov writes for people not instruments. If the people he has in mind for a piece play a certain combination of instruments that’s what he will write for and if circumstances demand it he will readily make changes. We saw that last night when cantor Alex Stein was unable to perform in K’vakaret (for cantor and string quartet) and Juan Gabriel Olivares stepped in on clarinet instead.
Last night marked the last performance I plan on seeing before the holidays so it’s time for the annual “best of” posting. So what did your scribe enjoy or admire the most in 2019? Let’s look at it by categories.
Fully staged opera with orchestra
The COC had a decent year but two of their shows stood out for me. David McVicar’s production of Rusalka in October was perhaps all round the best thing the COC have done in years. The production was clever in that interrogated the material enough to ask lots of questions for those willing to think about them without doing anything to upset those not so interested. Musically one really can’t imagine hearing Rusalka sung or played better anywhere in the world. The other winner was Elektra in January. The orchestra and the singing was the winner here, especially Christine Goerke, but the production was better than average and we don’t see enough of the great modern classics in the Four Seasons stage.
So what do the first couple of weeks of 2020 hold. First up Toronto Operetta Theatre their traditional Mew Year run. his year it’s Johann Strauss’ The Gypsy Baron and there are five shows between December 28th and January 5th. The cast includes Michael Barrett, Meghan Lindsey and Beste Kalender. It plays at the St. Lawrence Centre.
If you can even contemplate the thought of another late night drinking Against the Grain’s Opera Pub is on at 9pm on January 2nd at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club. The following night tenor Zach Rioux has a free recital of mostly Italian rep in Mazzoleni Hall at 7.30pm (ETA CANCELLED).
I chatted this morning with Rachael Kerr; music director of Against the Grain’s upcoming Figaro’s Wedding. I saw the original version back in 2013 and was wondering what might be different this time. I also wondered whether there might be some insights to be gained by approaching it from the perspective of the music rather than the libretto. Hence my decision to talk to Rachael rather than other members of the team.
I think I lucked in. It proved to be a most interesting conversation which ultimately turned on why this would be an engaging show and how that turned on “intimacy”. So first let’s review the elements of the show: Continue reading →
December is not just Messiah though heaven knows there are plenty of those…
On Sunday 1st Voicebox is presenting Janáček’s Katya Kabanova. It has a strong cast including Lynn Isnar, Emilia Boteva, Michael Barrett and Cian Horrobin. We don’t see nearly enough Janáček in Toronto. That’s at 2.30pm at the St. Lawrence Centre.
Against the Grain’s remount of Figaro’s Wedding runs December 3rd to the 20th at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse at 8pm. Music direction this time is by Rachael Kerr and the cast includes Bruno Roy, Miriam Khalil, Ally Smither, Phillip Addis, Lauren Eberwein, Jacques Arsenault, Maria Soulis and Greg Finney. Review of the 2013 original.
I think it’s time to get back to doing two listing posts per month as the schedule is getting pretty busy.
On November 1st at 8pm Karina Gauvin is appearing at Koerner Hall with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in a programme of opera arias from 18th century St. Petersburg. The following night at 7.30pm, in Mazzoleni Hall, the Glenn Gould School has its fall production. This time it’s Jonathan Dove’s Siren Song. Curiously UoT Opera is also doing a work by Dove this season.