Taraf Syriana are an interesting collection of musicians. They are all conservatory trained but in different genres from western classical to Syrian classical to Romani (and probably more) and they play a variety of instruments from different traditions. They combine all this to create a kind of fusion folk/rock inspired by the music(s) of the lands from the Balkans through Syria to Kurdistan. They use quite a bit of amplification and the overall effect is like a sort of eastern Mediterranean Fairport Convention although there’s more composed music and less traditional stuff in the Taraf Syriana rep.
The first virtual offering if the COC’s season is now available at coc.ca. It’s a ninety minute concert featuring Tamara Wilson, Russell Braun and the COC orchestra with Johannes Debus conducting. The choice of rep is fairly “safe” with plenty of Verdi and Puccini though there’s quite a lot of Wagner too. Both singes are in good voice; Tammy Wilson very much so. Her “Ben io t’invenni… Anch’io dischiuso” from Verdi’s Nabucco is dramatic and there’s a moving “Vissi d’arte”, “Tacea la notte placida… Di tale amor” from Il Trovatore gives evidence of flexibility and precision as well as power in and she gives an excellent Liebestod to finish. Russell sounds really lyrical especially in that concert favourite “Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen” and in Wolfram’s “O du, mein holder Abendstern”.
I’m late to the party on this one. I had set aside time on Sunday to watch Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule and Miriam Khalil’s recital from Koerner Hall (one of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series) when first broadcast. For whatever reason I couldn’t get it to mirror onto the big screen in a watchable way so I ended up watching it on my laptop yesterday. So it goes.
March 12th at 8pm. ARC Ensemble plays Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 and English Songs. An all Beethoven programme featuring Monica Whicher in the songs. That’s a free livestream on the Koerner Hall performance page.
March 21st at 1pm. To the Distant Beloved. Miriam Khalil, Russell Braun and Carolyn Maule perform Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte and a world premiere piece by award-winning Iranian Canadian composer, Afarin Mansouri, commissioned by Canadian Art Song Project. This one is $10 with tickets/codes available from the RCM box office.
Like everything else the 2020 Rubies, Opera Canada‘s awards show, is going virtual this year. It’s going out as a video, produced by Taylor Long of the COC, which will premier at 8pm on November 23rd. Joyce El-Khoury hosts and Ben Heppner narrates the honouree videos, and then Barbara Hannigan, Michael Schade and Yannick Nezet-Seguin contribute ‘acceptance’ speeches. Plus there’s a tribute to this year’s posthumous honouree, tenor Edward Johnson. There are also performances by Russell Braun, Rihab Chaieb, Midori Marsh and Matt Cairns recorded in the studio with pianist and singer co-located. The show will be shown via OC’s Youtube channel.
There’s much more about the honourees and their careers on the Opera Canada website:
The line up for next season’s Songmasters series in Mazzoleni Hall has been announced.
November 22nd 2020 sees baritone Elliot Madore and pianist Rachel Andrist in a program called Troubled Times with music by Adams, Britten, Higdon and Musto. It really is about time Mississauga boy Elliot was heard in Toronto. he must have sung just about everywhere else by now!
This year the TSO used the Mozart arrangement for Handel’s Messiah (though, naturally enough, with the original English text). I have mixed feelings about it. It’s not hugely different in sound to whichever of Handel’s versions one is used to and it’s definitely not one of those 20th century versions for 100 piece orchestra and massed choirs but I’m hard pressed to see what the point is other than it’s Mozart.
Last night’s concert at Koerner Hall was a celebration of the life and work of Armenian composer and song collector Komitas on the occasion of his 150th birthday. Unsurprisingly Koerner was packed with members of Toronto’s Armenian community. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable at events like this; unable to really appreciate what the music means in its home culture, but last night what I felt was joy and inclusion. It was an extremely well curated concert of rather beautiful music extremely well performed.
September starts the slow ramp up to the new season. The first thing in my calendar is Mysterious Barricades on September 14th from 1pm to 2pm in Walter Hall. This is a series of coast to coast, dawn to dusk concerts in aid of Suicide Awareness. Russell Braun, Monica Whicher and Nathalie Paulin are all involved. It’s free but ticketed. Check the link for details.