A Woman’s Voice

A Woman's VoiceConfluence Concerts’ show last night at Heliconian Hall was titled A Woman’s Voice.  It was, after a fashion, a CD release concert in two halves.  The first half featured music by Alice Ping Yee Ho from the album A Woman’s Voice and featuring the same performers; Vania Chan, Katy Clark, Alex Hetherington, Maeve Palmer and Jialiang Zhu.  I’ve already reviewed the album and I don’t think last night changed my opinion much so I’ll not do a detailed rundown.  What I can say is that last night it was mostly opera excerpts; Lesson of Da Ji, Chinatown, The Imp of the Perverse, and a live concert gave an opportunity for a bit of staging which was definitely an enhancement, especially in The Imp of the Perverse scene.  “Café Chit Chat” and “Black” also benefitted from visual interaction between the singers.  I like the CD a lot.  Getting a chance to see some of the music live was great. Continue reading

More this month

feb23_2Here are a few more gigs that I didn’t check in my earlier February post.

This Saturday (18th) at 7.30pm at 918 Bathurst the Happenstancers have a concert.  It’s called Hypersuite and it will consist of movements from Bach works for solo instrument interspersed with contemporary works in like vein. Composers to be featured include Ana Sokolovic, Augusta Read Thomas and Elliot Carter.  More info and tickets here.

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February 2023

february2023Here’s what I’m looking forward to in February plus a few gigs I can’t make:

  • February 1st and 2nd the Chicago Symphony and Riccardo Muti are performing at Koerner Hall.  It’s a rare opportunity to hear a top orchestra in the wonderful Koerner acoustic but it’s probably sold out already.
  • On February 3rd the COC opens a run of Richard Strauss’ Salome with Ambur Braid in the title role and a stellar supporting cast.  Hard core Braid fans (and that includes me) know that this is a role she was born to sing.  It’s an Atom Egoyan production and he’ll likely tweak it but here’s a link to my review of the 2013 run.
  • February 6th sees the return of the Quilico Awards; a competition for the singers of the Ensemble Studio.  That’s at 5.30pm in the RBA and it’s free.

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Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian

I finally got to see Rufus Wainwright’s new opera Hadrian, to a libretto by Daniel Macivor, at the Four Seasons Centre last night.  There’s been a lot of hype around it and I was interested; the few bits of music from it that I had heard intrigued me but I’m no fan of his earlier work Prima Donna.  One thing was certain.  The piece does not lack ambition. There are four acts totalling something like 160 minutes.  There’s a large cast, a large orchestra, a large chorus and an epic storyline.  It’s clearly an attempt to produce a “grand opera” for our times.  Does it succeed?

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News, news, news

nataly gennadiThis just in.  Ukrainian Canadian soprano Natalya Gennadi will replace Ambur Braid in the title role in Tapestry’s Oksana G.  I should have seen that coming as I know that Ambur is singing in a Krenek’s The Secret Kingdom at Oper Frankfurt until May 21st and Oksana G. opens on the 24th!  I’ve only seen Ms. Gennadi sing once but she was impressive and she’s a protégée of Sondra Radvanovsky.

Sadder, Talisker Players are shutting up shop at the end of the season after eighteen years.  Likely another example of there only being so long any one person or team can keep up the funding grind.  Talisker’s concerts were an often interesting mix of music and related readings and no-one else really operates in that niche.

Magic Flute revived at COC

Last night saw the first performance of this season’s run of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the COC.  It’s a revival of the Diane Paulus 2011 production with Ashlie Corcoran as revival director.  It has a “theatre within a theatre” overlay in Act 1; it’s supposed to be an aristocratic birthday party for Pamina where the guests perform the opera, which mysteriously disappears in Act 2 though it makes an odd reprise right at the end where all the characters appear to perform a country dance.  Strip that element out and it’s a workmanlike Flute with nothing much to say but some pretty visuals.  The animals are cute and the trials scene is rather well done.  There is one notable change from 2011.  Pamina’s lurid pink Disney princess outfit is gone, replaced by something Regencyish and far less jarring.

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Ambur Braid is Oksana G.

So finally we have dates and casting for the long awaited Oksana G (music Aaron Gervais, libretto Colleen Murphy) from Tapestry Opera.  This one has been years in the making.  Back when I saw the second act workshop in 2012 there were all kinds of rumours about who would eventually (co)produce it.  Now it looks like Tapestry have come up the resources to do it as a standalone.  That’s no mean feat as this is a full blown two acter with orchestra and chorus.  It will play May 24th – 30th, 2017, at the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre of the Canadian Opera Company, 227 Front St. E. (just around the corner from the Kitten Kondo) and the title role will be played by Operaramblings’ favourite crazy lady Ambur Braid.  As she showed recently as Dalinda in the COC’s Ariodante she’s now much more than a series of impressive high notes.  She’s become a singing actress of real substance and Oksana is certainly a role a girl could get her teeth into.  The rest of the casting is also impressive with the always impressive Krisztina Szabó as Oksana’s mother, Adam Fisher as Father Alexander, and Keith Klassen as the baddy Konstantin.  Jordan de Souza conducts and Tom Diamond directs.  This is one not to miss!

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Photo Credit: Jennifer Toole

Coming of Age in the Hebrides

What are we to make of Handel’s Ariodante?  The plot centres on the notion that female chastity is the be all and end all of life.  It’s not a notion that would find much support in 21st century Toronto, even among a Sunday afternoon audience at the Four Seasons Centre.  Ginevra, princess of Scotland and heir to the king, is  betrothed to Ariodante.  Ariodante has a rival, Polinesso who is loved in a besotted kind of way by Ginevra’s maid, Dalinda.  Polinesso claims to have slept with Ginevra and offers to prove it to Ariodante.  He drugs Ginevra and gets Dalinda to put on Ginevra’s clothes and invite him into her room.  Ariodante disappears, apparently having committed suicide in a fit of despair.  On the flimsiest of evidence Ginevra, who has no idea what happened, is condemned to death.  Her accusers, including her father, don’t even bother to ask who the man in her room was.  Polinesso tries to remove the now inconvenient Dalinda from the scene but fails and when Ariodante shows up again she spills the beans.  Polinesso is killed by Ariodante’s brother in a duel but not before confessing.  All is forgiven and everyone carries on as if nothing in the least traumatising just happened.  So, what to do with this?

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CASP 2016

It’s been four years since the initial Canadian Art Song Project concert in the RBA.  Since then they’ve commissioned a number of works and started a recital series that has included innovative presentations such as the performance of Brian Harman’s Sewing the Earthworm given in November.  A work premiered that night; Erik Ross’ The Living Spectacle formed the conclusion to yesterday’s concert but first came a series of works performed by students from the University of Toronto.

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