Monica and Judy

Yesterday’s Mazzoleni Songmasters recital featured the relatively unusual combination of soprano Monica Whicher accompanied by Judy Loman on harp.  It was a very well constructed and executed afternoon of song.  Each set had something to offer.Th first set was of English songs of the 16th and 17th centuries including the very lovely O Death Rock Me Asleep attributed, almost certainly inaccurately, to Anne Boleyn.  All very touching and harp seeming very appropriate for songs which were likely intended for lute accompaniment.

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Batting 1000

Yesterday saw the 1000th concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (*) since the house opened in 2006.  Fittingly it was given by Susan Bullock who sang Brünnhilde in the Canadian premier of the Ring Cycle that christened the new theatre.  She was accompanied by Liz Upchurch who has also been around since before the new house existed.

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Winter Words

Yesterday’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured mezzo Lucia Cervoni, tenor Michael Colvin and pianist Rachel Andrist in a varied programme of song.  It kicked off with two songs by George MacNutt; Take Me to a Green Isle, sung by Michael, and O Love, Be Deep, sung by Lucia.  Both songs are in a quite meditative mood and served to give us a pretty good idea of what we could expect later on.  Michael sings very much in the British manner, which comes as no surprise with his extensive work at ENO and the number of Britten roles he sings.  Lucia’s dark, smokey mezzo sounded rather more operatic.

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The truth untold

GunLast night’s TSO performance of Britten’s War Requiem was a bit of a mixed bag.  There were things to like but, overall, I was not greatly moved; which I expect to be by this work, and it seemed like a very long evening for one work of modest length.

Let’s start with the positives.Tatiana Pavlovskaya was as good a soprano soloist as I have heard in this piece.  She sang with enough power to be a distinct voice in all but the very densest sections of the music while maintaining an admirable sweetness of tone without the almost customary screechiness.  The Toronto Children’s Chorus was excellent.  Toby Spence’s diction was top notch with every word clear.  There was some really nice playing from the chamber orchestra, especially the strings.  The last fifteen minutes from the blood curdling Libera Me to “let us sleep now” had the right balance of terror and lyricism though, even here, there could have been more drama.  Where was the frisson at “I am the enemy you killed my friend”? Continue reading

Not a review

This afternoon I saw Gerry Finley and Julius Drake in recital at Koerner Hall.  In other words, two supreme exponents of the art of lieder at the top of their game in a hall with near perfect acoustics.  They performed Beethoven and Schubert settings of Goethe texts, some Tchaikovsky and some Rachmaninoff, which gave Julius ample opportunity to show off.  They finished up with settings of folky things by Copland, Barber, Respighi and Britten.  The last was The Crocodile; a very silly and funny piece I hadn’t heard before.  The encore was by Healey Willans and Gerry gave a very nice plug for the Canadian Art Song Project.  Insert standard list of adjectival phrases describing top notch singing and accompaniment.  My humble scribing is not worthy.

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Not taken today.  My phone pictures were awful

Let me tell you a story

Most opera singers come to the profession through fairly well defined pathways; music degree, post graduate degree or conservatory training, young artists program, and so on.  Occasionally one comes across someone with a very different background.  The English (well Scouse) mezzo Jennifer Johnston read law and practiced at the bar before becoming a professional singer.  Burkhard Fritz studied medicine before committing to singing.  Yesterday Mexican-American tenor Joshua Guerrero, in town to sing the Duke of Mantua, used his lunchtime recital in the RBA to tell us his story in words and music.

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Songbird

songbird - coverLayla Claire is one of a handful of young Canadian singers making something of a splash on both sides of the Atlantic with major roles in Glyndebourne, Zürich, Toronto and Salzburg and an upcoming Pamina at the Met.  Her debut recital CD Songbird, with pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone, was recently issued on the ATMA Classique label.  It’s an interesting and varied collection of songs though never straying very far from familiar recital territory.  It’s tilted towards French (Gounod, Chausson, Debussy, Fauré, Bizet) and German (Wolf, Strauss, Brahms, Liszt) repertoire but there’s also Quilter, Barber, Argento and Britten (the comparatively rare Seascape which is, oddly, omitted from the CD liner).

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