Isabel Bayrakdarian’s latest CD is rather odd. The material is obscure. It’s all taken from 18th century operas about the Armenian king Tigranes and his daughter Cleopatra. The plots are basically the same. Tigranes wants Cleopatra to make a marriage of state but she is in love with Tigranes’ enemy Mithridates. The outcomes are predictable. Apparently, these operas are Bayrakdarian’s academic specialty and she has chosen excerpts from Cleopatra’s part in versions by Hasse, Vivaldi and Gluck.
The Art Song Foundation of Canada has launched a new free on-line magazine called, somewhat unsurprisingly, Art Song Canada. The first issue has three articles including a very interesting one by Gerald Finley. You can sign up for it and see the first issue here.
A listing I missed on the weekend… On November 25th at 2.30pm in the Jane Mallet Theatre, VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert are presenting Massenet’s Werther with Matt Chittick in the title role, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Charlotte and Brett Polegato as Albert. Narmina Afandiyeva directs from the piano.
The Royal Conservatory has just announced its Koerner Hall line up for the 2017/18 season. There are 23 classical and 6 jazz concerts. This doesn’t include the Glenn Gould School or concerts in the RCM’s other halls. Highlights from a vocal point of view are as follows:
November 10th 2017 at 8pm: Barbara Hannigan with Reinbert de Leeuw in a mainly Second Vienna School programme. Not to be missed if that’s your thing and it’s certainly mine.
February 14th 2018 at 8pm: Ian Bostridge with Julius Drake in an all Schubert programme.
April 6th 2018 at 8pm: Bernstein@100; a tribute to Lenny featuring, among others, Wallis Giunta.
April 22nd 2018 at 3pm: Gerald Finley with Julius Drake in a varied program of art and folk songs.
April 27th 2018 at 8pm: The Amici Ensemble with Isabel Bayrakdarian and the winners of the GGS chamber music competition. The vocal part of the programme is all Bernstein.
May 10th 2018 at 8pm: Not typical Opera Ramblings fare but worth a mention; Jodi Sarvall, Hespèrion XXI and Galician pipes specialist Carlos Núñez in a program of pipe music from around the western fringes of Europe.
The PDF with the full line up is here
This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
Mother of Light contains a series of works in praise of the Virgin Mary from Isabel Bayrakdarian’s Armenian Church tradition. Origins range from the 5th century to the early 20th. They are performed here in arrangements by Bayrakdarian’s husband Serouj Kradjian for soprano (Isabel Bayrakdarian), cello (Ani Aznavoorian) and female choir (Coro Vox Aeterna conducted by Anna Hamre).
This Sunday sees the first of the season for Recitals at Rosedale. Entitled A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales, it will feature soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, mezzo soprano Allyson McHardy and baritone Geoff Sirett with pianists Robert Kortgaard and Rachel Andrist. The programme features works by Mahler, Debussy, Symanowski, Weil, Gershwin and more. It’s on November 9th at 2.30 pm at Rosedale Presbyterian Church and tickets are available here.
Rival Queens is a collaboration between Tafelmusik and Isabel Bayrakdarian showcasing music written for Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni; star divas of the 18th century who fought out a bitter rivalry on stage in London in 1726-28. The great composers of the sage, most notably Handel, all composed for them and wrote works that brought out their respective, and quite contrasted, strengths.
In the first half of the program Bayrakdarian focused on works for Bordoni. There were arias from Handel’s Alessandro (one of the works both divas performed in), Bononcini’s Astianatte and Hasse’s Cajo Fabricio. These are pieces requiring extremely secure technique. They lie fairly low in the soprano range (maybe modern mezzo territory) but have long, long, intricate coloratura runs which Bayrakdarian navigated with apparent ease. The arias were rounded out with orchestral pieces by Handel and Zelenka.
The opening weekend of April is almost absurdly rich in opera going opportunities and I’ve already previewed it here. There are updates on the Tapestry/Volcano show Revolutions. This is going to be highly experimental and aims to “test the boundaries of how opera is presented in the 21st century.” by exploring the relationship between physical and musical expression. Marie- Josée Chartier (contemporary dance), stage director Michael Mori, will work with four athletic young opera singers, Neema Bickersteth, Andrea Ludwig, Adrian Kramer and Andrew Love. Unfortunately it’s one night only and I shall be at the opening of Peter Sellars’ production of Handel’s Hercules at the COC. Eric Owens, Alice Coote, Richard Croft, David Daniels and Lucy Crowe are singing and Harry Bicket is in the pit. If that’s not incentive enough the COC is offering a 25% discount if you buy tickets to any two of the three spring operas (the other two are Roberto Devereux and Don Quichotte). Continue reading
The 2009 Florence recording of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen is bright, colourful, straightforward and fun but it doesn’t quite have the magic of the older Théâtre du Châtelet version. Laurent Pelly’s production is quite straightforward with attractive sets and costumes and interesting choreography from Lionel Hoche.
Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is a strange and compelling piece. Dramatically it is very “slow burn” with a narrative arc that builds over almost two hours to a final scene of searing intensity. Without that final scene the piece would have no reason but it justifies all and only one “fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils” could possibly leave the theatre unmoved. It’s not just moving, done well it’s emotionally devastating. And that’s the state I left the Four Seasons Centre in last night after a near perfect performance of Robert Carsen’s extraordinary production.
After a week of nostalgia wallowing in ancient “productions” from the met and the COC it’s back to Regietheater with a vengeance for the 100th DVD review on this blog. The subject is Martin Kušej’s Salzburg production of Don Giovanni which premiered in 2002 but was recorded in 2006 as part of the M22 project.
For a start there’s nothing giocoso about this dramma. It’s a very bleak and complex production with lots of ideas; some of which work and some of which are more problematic, and it’s provoked more discussion at the Kitten Kondo than just about any other recording we’ve watched recently. Rather than write a 3000 word review I’m going to write a normal length review and follow it up with one or more posts on aspects of the production that seem particularly worth exploring. Continue reading