That’s what Laurent Pelly said about the idea of a Frenchman directing a French opera adaptation of a Shakespeare play for an English audience during Shakespeare 400. Maybe he has a point but I think his 2016 production of Berlioz’ Béatrice et Bénédict probably gets as much as there is to be got out of a curiously uneven work.
The latest Handel oratorio to be given the operatic treatment by Glyndebourne is Saul, which played in 2015 in a production by Australian Barrie Kosky. It’s quite a remarkable work. The libretto, as so often the work of Charles Jennens, takes considerable liberties with the version in Samuel and incorporates obvious nods to both King Lear and Macbeth as well as more contemporary events. David’s Act 3 lament on the death of Saul, for instance, clearly invokes the execution of Charles I. What emerges is a very classic tragedy. Saul, the Lord’s anointed, is driven by jealousy and insecurity deeper and deeper into madness and degradation and, ultimately, death. This is the basic narrative arc of the piece.
Young American tenor Paul Appleby has been delighting audiences in the current COC production of Così fan tutte where he sings Ferrando. Today he got to show us what he could do as a lieder singer in a lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. He started off with a stylish, if occasionally tentative, set of five Schubert songs. It was a promising start with some very stylish and controlled singing and unhistrionic acting with the voice. Hitting his stride, he gave us seven songs from Schumann’s Myrten cycle. These covered a wide range of moods from tender passion to drunken ecstasy. Again great skill and artistry and lovely accompaniment from Anne Larlee at the piano.
Atom Egoyan’s new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte opened at the Four Seasons Centre last night. It’s a visually appealing production with an interesting concept and some glorious singing and acting. One may question aspects of the concept but nowhere does it do serious violence to da Ponte’s libretto and the end result, coupled with some outstanding performances makes for a most enjoyable evening.
The best bargain of the Toronto music season is the free lunchtime concert series at the Four Seasons Centre. The 2013/14 line up was announced today. Opera and vocal highlights include recitals by Sir Thomas Allen (Songs of the Sea, which sounds rather excellent), Simone Osborne, Robert Pomakov with The Gryphon Trio, Tracey Dahl, Russell Braun and Paul Appleby. Somewhat off the beaten track, there will be a performance of Gagliano’s La Dafne by Capella Intima and the Toronto Continuo Collective and the Canadian Art Song project will be premiering a new commission by a Canadian composer. There will also be the usual (and very popular) sessions from the COC Ensemble Studio (including two Britten themed concerts), the students of the University of Toronto opera division and the young artists of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.
For the less vocally inclined there is also a full line up of piano, chamber music, world music, jazz and dance. Here’s the full PDF brochure.