Upcoming events

Ridiculously short notice I know but VOICEBOX/Opera in Concert’ are closing their season with Verdi’s Stiffelio this afternoon at the St. Lawrence Centre.  This 1850 workconcerns an adultery in the house of a Protestant minister and was so severely censored by the Italian authorities that Verdi withdrew it in 1856 and it’s rarely seen.  VOICEBOX will present the scholarly edition prepared from the Carrara family MS in the early 90’s.  It’s a concert performance with piano accompaniment featuring Ernesto Ramirez,  Laura Albino and Geoffrey Sirett.

On Wednesday there’s a rare performance of Gagliano’s La Dafne by Capella Intima and the Toronto Continuo Collective.  An ensemble of dramatic voices accompanied by lutes, theorbos, harpsichord and viola da gamba will present Ovid’s tale of Apollo and Daphne.  It’s at noon and forms part of the COC’s free concert series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

Finally, on March 3rd Toronto Masque Theatre is presenting a soirée on the history of the masque form.  There will be panel discussions and performances by soprano Patricia O’Callaghan, guitarist Ken Whiteley and others.  It’s at 7.30pm at  21 Shaftesbury Avenue, Toronto.  Tickets are by donation ($20 suggested) and seating is limited so registration is required either online at torontomasquetheatre.com or by calling 416-410-4561.


Season announcements

Announcements for the upcoming season in Toronto are starting to come in.  Voicebox: Opera in Concert have announced a thee show season at the St. Lawrence Centre for the arts. The season opens on Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 2:30 PM with Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana.  This isn’t a work one gets to see very often so even a piano accompanied concert version is very welcome.  Musical Director and Pianist will be Peter TiefenbachSoprano Betty Waynne Allison will sing Elizabeth I with tenor Adam Luther as Essex. The cast also includes Jennifer Sullivan, Jesse Clark and Mark Petracchi.

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Svadba-Wedding revisited

Back in June I attended and wrote up the world premiere of Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba-Wedding. Today it was given again in a concert performance by the original cast in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. I’m not going to repeat what I said in the earlier review but focus on my reactions to seeing it again. First off, it works very well as a concert piece losing less than a more obviously narrative work might. Second, I was struck by the interesting way the piece weaves two very different musical strands together; the high tempo, almost percussive, onomatopoeic elements as referred to before but also a more lyrical element where a long, slow, folk derived line is introduced and then a second and maybe a third or even a fourth melody are woven in to create a rather dense harmonic texture. This second element is particularly apparent in the final number “Farewell”. The contrast is very effective. Finally, Jacqueline Woodley sounded even more like a young Dawn Upshaw. Her ability to sing powerfully with next to no vibrato is very compelling in this sort of music. [Image by John Lauener is from the staged production at Berkeley Street and was lifted from today’s performance flyer]

Against the Grain’s Bohème

Last night we were as far removed from the elegant sophistication of the Four Seasons Centre as one can get. We were in the back room of the Tranzac for Against the Grain Theatre Company’s updated, Toronto version of Puccini’s much played La Bohème. The Tranzac is a club. It’s quite scruffy and for many years the Nomads hung out there. I have spent many a riotous evening there involving beer slides and too much booze. It also hosts music events; mostly folk and jazz. Last night’s show was in the big room at the back which, set up with tables as it was, holds maybe a hundred or so people. The bar was open throughout. The beer selection has improved markedly since I was last at the Tranzac with a good range of products from McAuslan’s and Mill Street.

Against the Grain is a newly formed company of youngish performers. Many of them are products of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. This was not an amateur show! What we got was a somewhat abridged version of La Bohème in a new English translation by Joel Ivany (who also directed) adapted to include the translation in place and time to contemporary Toronto sung with piano accompaniment and staged in and around the audience. The piece opens with Rudolfo and Marcello squatting at the Tranzac where, the libretto informs us, it is “fucking cold”. It rolls on from there in a similar vein and it’s very effective.

The singing was excellent. Adam Luther sang Rudolfo and showed that it was well within his compass, high notes and all. Laura Albino sang a serious Mimi capable of great and beautiful passion in her set pieces. Opera turned cabaret singer Lindsay Sutherland Boal was a thoroughly engaging Musetta. She pretty much stole the show in Act II when she worked the room in black corset and tight pants during her big aria. Christopher Mokrzewski was at the piano throughout and did a fine job.

All in all it was an enjoyable and worthwhile evening without the rather jarring aspect of displaying grinding poverty to the rich in their opera house finery. I really like that alongside the increasingly excellent offerings from the COC Toronto can offer opera in settings like the Tranzac.

There are two more performances; tonight and tomorrow.