We are remarkably lucky in Toronto to get as much contemporary opera as we do.  Courtesy of groups like Tapestry and Soundstreams , it seems that two or three new pieces get performed every year.  They tend to be home grown, which is fine but does mean we don’t often get a glimpse into what’s happening with new work in Europe.  In fact, in the last few years, I think the only European contemporary piece I’ve seen in Toronto was Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin.  So, I was really pleased, courtesy of Soundstreams and CanStage to be able to see Philippe Boesmans’ Julie which opened last night at the Bluma Appel theatre.

Julie, CanStage

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Soundstreams subscription offer

Soundstreams, Toronto’s contemporary music specialists, have pointed out that one can use their “Pick 3” subscription package to get a discount on all three of their vocal offerings in 2015/16.  The three shows are:

  • A concert with Adrianne Pieczonka and Kristina Szabó in a varied, indeed fascinatingly eclectic, programme on September 29th 2015.
  • Boesmans’ opera Julie which runs November 17th to 29th 2015.
  • A choral concert with Scottish composer James MacMillan including his Seven Last Words from the Cross.  This one is on March 8th 2016.

Subscription packages start at $135 and are available at soundstreams.ca

Casting for Julie announced


Lucia Cervoni as Carmen in Magdeburg

The casting for Philip Boesmans’ chamber opera Julie, to be staged by Soundstrams and Canadian Stage in November has been announced.  The title role will be sung by London, Ontario mezzo Lucia Cervoni.  I’ve not seen her but judging by reviews she seems to be very much in the same space; physically and vocally, as Malena Ernman who premiered the role.  Jean, her feckless lover, well be sung by Clarence Frazer.  He’s been on terrific form lately and seems a good pick, though it’s a rather thankless role.  The toughest sing in the piece is probably Christine, Jean’s fiancée and a servant in the household.  This goes to Ottawa’s Sharleen Joynt.  She really impressed me as Zerlina in Against the Grain’s #UncleJohn and I’m really intrigued to see what she does with a high coloratura role which is, I believe, her normal turf.  Continue reading

Makes me want to cut my throat too

Philippe Boesmans’ opera Julie; libretto by Luc Bondy and Marie-Louise Bischolberger after Früken Julie by August Strindberg, is unremittingly bleak.  In fact, if it lasted much longer than its 75 minutes I could well imagine audience members cutting their throats long before the title character.  That said, it’s pretty compelling stuff.  It’s a tight drama about a young aristocratic woman kicking against the constraints of her privileged life aided and abetted by her father’s rather spineless valet Jean; a suitable occupation as he is one of nature’s lackeys.  The only likeable character is Jean’s young fiancée Kristin, a cook in the household.  Buried in this simple melodramatic plot of lust, betrayal and suicide are all kinds of ideas about heredity, social class and behaviour.  Broadly speaking the message is “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate” and woe betide you if your plebeian mother married above herself.

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julie_02The Canadian Stage season brochure for 2015/16 landed in my mailbox yesterday.  I was intrigued to see that, among the ten productions on offer, there was an opera and a contemporary one at that.  Julie is a 2005 adaptation of Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie with a libretto by Luc Bondy and music by Belgian Philippe Boesmans.  Matthew Jocelyn directs.  There will be eight performances at the 867 seat Bluma Appel Theatre from November 17th to November 29th 2015.  More details here.

It seems like the Toronto contemporary opera scene is coming to life.  As well as Tapestry’s ongoing efforts we had Airline Icarus, Shelter and When the Sun Comes Out this summer and who knows what’s to come.  It almost makes up for the COC commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 by programming nothing written since then.