The 2018 Salzburg Festival production of Die Zauberflöte really pushes the envelope of reenvisioning the piece. Is there anything to say about this piece that hasn’t already been said? Lydia Steier thinks so and goes some considerable way tp making her point. So what’s the big idea here? Essentially the kicking off points are that it’s about (in a sense) a dysfunctional family and it’s a fairy tale. So we open on the dining room of a rather depressing bourgeois Austrian family in the mid 1930s sitting down to dinner. There’s the mother, the father, the grandfather and three boys; all rather formally dressed. A portrait of a bride hangs behind the table. The father has a hissy fit and storms out. The mother, who appears to drink, starts breaking things. The grandfather takes the boys off to the nursery to read them a bedtime story.
Julie Makerov and Anne Larlee in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre
For the Valentine’s Day lunchtime concert at the Four Seasons Centre American dramatic soprano Julie Makerov chose a series of art songs by English and American composers on various aspects of love. I was familiar with the English works by Quilter and Britten, though more used to hear them sung by male singers, and not at all familiar with the American works by Berger, Barber and Heggie. It made for an interesting mix.
A dramatic soprano wouldn’t normally be my first choice for a song recital but Ms. Makerov is very skilled. She scaled her voice back nicely and had her vibrato well under control. She also had excellent diction and a good feel for the text. She didn’t have the most interesting range of tone colour I’ve ever heard but it was a most musical and enjoyable performance. She performed the whole set from memory which is nice. The highlights for me included a couple of Quilter settings; Weep You No More Sad Fountains and The Faithless Shepherdess, and a really moving account of Britten’s setting of O, Waly, Waly. I also really liked the three songs by Berger; In Time of Silver Rain, Heart and Carolina Cabin. In case we thought the whole thing too serious she encored with an appropriately over the top rendering of Heggie’s Alas, Alack.
Anne Larlee, on piano, once again showed what a fine accompanist she is and there was a very good cameo for cellist Paul Widner in Heggie’s What My Lips Have Kissed.
It was well worth braving the driving sleet of a truly dreich Toronto day.