To the Distant Beloved

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.

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Coming up at the Royal Conservatory

Coming up at the Royal Conservatory….

  • 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.

Virtual Rubies

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.

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There’s much more about the honourees and their careers on the Opera Canada website:

Songmasters line up for next season

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!

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Mozart’s Messiah

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.

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Komitas at Koerner

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.

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Looking ahead to September

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.

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I have a Japanese carving

Hell’s Fury(*) is a two man show about Hanns Eisler conceived and created by Tim Albery.  It’s focussed on his time in the United States and, somewhat, on his return to the DDR.  It combines songs from the Hollywood Songbook (poems by Brecht and others set by Eisler), dialogue and projections to tell the story of Eisler’s arrival in Hollywood, his work in the US, his deportation as a result of the “work” of the House Un-American Activities Committee and his return to the GDR and struggles to come to terms with the Stalinist culturecrats leading ultimately to drink, depression and death.

Russell Braun in Hell's Fury The Hollywood Songbook_Photo by Trevor Haldenby (2)

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UoT’s La finta giardiniera

I don’t think I’m ever going to love Mozart’s La finta giardiniera.  It has some pleasing music, though oddly the two principal characters don’t get much of it, but the plot is ridiculous and it really outstays its welcome.  That said, Michael Patrick Albano’s production for UoT Opera in the MacMillan Theatre at least makes the complexity clear.  We never lose sight of who is who; even if the other characters do, and what logic there is in the plot comes through clearly enough.  Albano sets it entirely realistically in 18th century dress with set elements efficiently dropped in from the fly loft or carried around by a small band of liveried servants.  There’s a fair bit of “park and bark” but then there’s a lot of prosy explaining going on.

Cairns Finta

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