I was fortunate, back in November 2016, to be at the Aga Khan Museum when Miriam Khalil gave an extraordinary performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre. Good news! It was recorded and it will soon be available as the inaugural release on the new Against the Grain label. It loses little in its translation to disk. I think the power, beyond the work itself, comes from Miriam’s intensity and grasp of the various idioms involved. As the man himself says “No own owns this piece in the way that Miriam Khalil does. It is as if she was born to sing it”. Certainly it sounds quite different from the original recording with Dawn Upshaw. The recording itself is clean and clear and does the performance justice. Osvaldo’s introductory speech is included as a bonus. The only criticism I have is that the texts don’t appear to be included in the booklet.
ETA: The release date is December 7th and Ayre will be available digitally on iTunes and Google Play, and physical CDs will be sold in retail shops in Toronto, online via the AtG website, and at all upcoming 18/19 season performances by Against the Grain Theatre.
AtG is also planning to make a digital booklet (including texts and translations) available on their website for launch. For now, those can be accessed by clicking on “texts” on the composer’s website here.
So here we go with things to look out for in the second half of the month or so. On the 13th Stacie Dunlop and flautist Kelly Zimba are putting on a program of pieces by living American and Canadian composers, including premieres by Toronto composer David Jaeger and the duo HaRebraIN (Anh Phung/Alan Mackie) along with works by Leslie Uyeda, Braxton Blake, Kate Soper and James O’Callaghan. That’s at 8pm at Gallery 345.
From November 15th to December 2nd Red Snow Collective are presenting the world premiere of The Monkey Queen, written by Diana Tso, directed by William Yong, and performed by Diana Tso and Nick Eddie. The production weaves text, movement, visual art and music, and reimagines the ancient tale through the playwright’s own personal journey as a Chinese-Canadian female artist; a sort of Journey to the East if you will. It’s at the Theatre Centre Incubator at 7.30pm.
Here are a few things I omitted from the listings posting on the weekend. First off, Opera Pub from Against the Grain Theatre on the 1st at 9pm. You can do Centre Stage at the Four Seasons Centre and still make it down to the Amsterdam Bicycle Club for less formal fun.
Not entirely opera related but ProArteDanza is presenting Figaro 2.0; a full-evening dance work co-choreographed by Roberto Campanella and Robert Glumbek on November 1st through 10th at 8pm at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre. Tickets are available here. It’s the same story as the opera of course.
On the 11th there’s the first in this season’s Mazzoleni Songmasters series. Joyce El-Khoury and Beste Kalender sing works by Ravel, Duparc and Debussy as well as songs from the Levant.
Against the Grain Theatre have announced an ambitious 2018/19 season. There are two main stage shows. The first is Bound, which had a first workshop outing in December 2017. It’s still a work-in-progress but there have been significant developments. Kevin Lau has been commissioned to inject his contemporary themes, music and ideas into the original music by Handel. Instead of piano there will be a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski with digital sound artist Acote. The cast will include soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh. This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19th, 20th and 21st, 2018. For me, the acid test will be whether the dramaturgy and the text has been tightened up.
Tapestry Opera has announced participants for this year’s LIBLAB. This year’s librettists participants include playwright Colleen Murphy, Kanika Ambrose and Guildhall artist-fellows Lila Palmer and Daniel Solon. Composers joining the 2018 program are: Rene Orth, composer in residence at Opera Philadelphia, Benton Roark, composer of last season’s Dora-nominated Bandits in the Valley, Ian Cusson August Murphy-King. The 2018 LIBLAB ensemble will be led by musical directors Jennifer Tung and Andrea Grant and director Michael Hidetoshi Mori. Singers include soprano Teiya Kasahara, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Tritchew, tenor Keith Klassen, and baritone Peter McGillivray.
The results of LIBLAB will be presented September 13th-16th, in the Ernest Balmer Studio as Tapestry Briefs: Tasting Shorts, a program of opera vignettes, expected to range from poignant and topical to hilarious accompanied by a tasting flight of tapas. Continue reading
Against the Grain Theatre’s Orphée+; a burlesque inflected version of Gluck’s Orphée, opened a three show run last night at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront. There are many, many things I want to say about this show and the challenge is going to be to present them in some kind of orderly sequence. First off there are expectations for an AtG show in Toronto that probably weren’t present when it opened in Columbus (It’s a co-pro with Opera Columbus and the Banff Centre). We have come to associate AtG with various kinds of “doing differently”; transladaptations, site specific stagings, staged art song and so on. In that context this is a rather conservative show. It’s a production of a canonic opera in a conventional theatre. It’s not a traditional production and would likely shock at the Met or the Lyric but would probably raise only half an eyebrow in Berlin or Barcelona. So I’m inclined to treat it as if I had seen it in Europe.
Darryl Block Photography
Mireille Asselin (Eurydice)
April is a busy month for fully staged opera. Canadian Opera opens two productions and there are shows from Opera Atelier, Against the Grain and Essential Opera. First up is the COC’s revival of Robert Lepage’s production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. This opens on April 13th and runs to May 13th. In 2009 it sold out so this time there are nine performances. Also at the COC there’s Donizetti’s Anna Bolena completing the Tudor trilogy. It opens on April 28th with nine performances closing May 26th.