Guth’s Figaro at the COC

Claus Guth’s production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, first seen at Salzburg in 2006, opened last night at the COC.  I was curious to see how it would be received because, while by no means an extreme production by European standards, it’s well beyond the 1970s aesthetic beloved by sections of the Toronto audience.  The aesthetic is Northern European; a Strindberg play or a Bergmann film perhaps.  It’s monochromatic, quite slow and focusses on the darker side of the characters’ psyches.  It’s the antithesis of Figaro as Feydeau farce.  There’s also a non-canonical character, Cherubim.  He’s a winged doppelganger of Cherubino and seems to be a cross between Cupid and Puck.  Pretty much omnipresent he manipulates scenes and characters though with a power that falls well short of absolute.  Perhaps the whole production is best summed up in the final ensemble.  Cherubim visits each couple in turn and is brusquely rejected.  Only Cherubino is still subject to his power and that seems to have become destructive.  Perhaps the message is “Now we are married forget this love nonsense and let us get back to our drab lives of quiet despair”.

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So wondrous sweet and fair!

On a bright, sunny winter’s day there are few more inviting places to be than the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre positively glowing in the sunlight.  When one’s reason for being there is a recital by Jane Archibald with the redoubtable Liz Upchurch at the piano one feels doubly blessed.  It was one of the best performances of the many I have attended in that space. KLP150210-_DSC2882 Continue reading

Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni

Last night Dmitri Tcherniakov’s much anticipated production of Don Giovanni opened at the Four Seasons Centre.  The production is basically a known quantity.  This is its fourth run overall and it was recorded for TV and DVD in Aix-en-Provence; which is a lengthy way of saying that nobody should have been very surprised by what they saw last night.  Inevitably some were.  Rereading my review of the DVD I find I have nothing much to add to what I said there about the first act and the overall concept so I’m going to pretty much going to repeat it here.

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Moving into February

footstepsIt’s getting pretty busy in Toronto.  Here are a few upcoming things of interest that I haven’t already mentioned.

This year, the Faculty of Music’s annual student composer project is a co-production with Campbell House Museum, the 19th century home of Sir William Campbell, Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Footsteps in Campbell House is a series of pieces by student composers to words by Michael Albano.  The audience moves around the house exploring the lives of those who livedd there.  There are five performances on January 30th and 31st and February 1st.  Each performance is limited to 35 people.  Tickets are $20 and available here.  I’m really intrigued by this but there’s no way I can go.   Continue reading

Comfort ye my people

‘Tis the season to Hallelujah in Toronto and Handel’s Messiah is everywhere.  Last night was the first performance of the biggest of them all, the Toronto Symphony and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir at Roy Thomson Hall.  Traditionally this is Toronto’s equivalent of John Barbirolli and the Huddersfield Choral Society so I was surprised to see a set up for a rather small orchestra.  In fact about thirty instrumentalists were used, playing modern instruments of course, with about 150 choristers.  It was something of a sign of things to come as conductor Grant Llewellyn took us through the piece quite briskly and rhythmically with even some ornamentation in the da capo repeats.  It’s becoming more common I think for conductors to get something approaching an HIP sound out of a modern orchestra as we’ve seen with Harry Bicket  in various opera houses.  The orchestra and chorus responded pretty well to the less staid approach with the sopranos sounding particularly spritely and incisive.

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COC’s Semele is Brooklyn bound

New Yorkers will get a chance to see Zhang Huan’s somewhat controversial production of Handel’s Semele at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in March.  The COC is touring the production, seen in Toronto in 2012, with the wonderful Jane Archibald again taking the title role.  The supporting cast is, on paper at least, more than a match for the one seen at COC.  Colin Ainsworth is the god Jupiter, and Welsh contralto Hilary Summers portrays both Jupiter’s jealous wife, Juno, and Ino, Semele’s sister. Katherine Whyte playsJuno’s messenger, Iris and Kyle Ketelsen sings both Semele’s father, Cadmus, and the god of sleep, Somnus. Athamas will be sung by Lawrence Zazzo.  Christopher Moulds conducts with the COC Orchestra and Chorus.

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This season’s free concerts in the RBA

rbaThe Canadian Opera Company has just announced the 14/15 line up for the free lunchtime (mostly) concerts in the very beautiful Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre.  Highlights, from my point of view, include recitals by Jane Archibald, Krisztina Szabó, Lauren Segal, Colin Ainsworth, Joshua Hopkins, Robert Gleadow, Barbara Hannigan and Ekaterina Gubanova.  There will also be ten concerts by the Ensemble Studio plus the Quilico competition.  The Canadian Art Song Project will showcase Allyson McHardy in a new song cycle by Marjan Mozetich.  There’s also a themed series of concerts  to commemorate anniversaries of the First and Second World Wars, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. This will comprise six concerts drawn from the Vocal, Chamber Music and Piano Virtuoso programs.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There are vocal, chamber, piano, dance, jazz and world music programs to suit a very wide range of tastes.  And it’s all free.  Full details at http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/FreeConcertSeries.aspx