The second of three projected iterations of Against the Grain Theatre’s Bound opened last night at The Great Hall. Version one was staged but in piano score. Last night’s version was sung off music stands but with a chamber ensemble and major changes to the music. It’s going to be interesting to see how the production version, due this time next year shapes up.
So one thing can be guaranteed in December; lots of Messiah. This year I have four on the radar. There’s the TSO of course. This year Johannes Debus conducts with soloists Claire de Sévigné, Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji and Tyler Duncan. One might almost have expected the COC Chorus but actually it’s the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in the loft. That one runs December 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd at 8pm and the 23rd at 3pm. Roy Thomson Hall of course. Over at Tafelmusik, it’s Ivars Taurins with Sherezade Panthaki, Krisztina Szabó, Charles Daniels and Drew Santini plus, of course, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir. That’s on December 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm. The Sing-a-Long version is at Roy Thomson Hall at 2pm on the 22nd. There’s also a workshop on the 8th at 2pm at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.
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 is now 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 one 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.
Ayre is available digitally on iTunes (C$9.99) 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.
There is also a digital booklet (including texts and translations and useful historical/background material) available on the AtG website.
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