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.
The first performance of Against the Grain Theatre’s Bound took place at the Jackman Studio at the COC. It’s the first public airing of the piece in piano score, as a workshop, so it’s not the finished product. The performance was followed by a lively discussion about the work’s potential and future avenues to explore.
I think it’s fair to say that Bound ventures into more serious territory than we have yet seen from this company, dealing as it does with the fraught relationship between the state and the individual in an age when the state, egged on by the right wing media, uses fear of terrorism to suppress “dissidents”.
The space where the audience assembles before the show is liberally decorated with propaganda for The State of the “fear anything that looks different” variety. In the performance venue itself the audience is ranked either side of a space that contains the piano and, at intervals around the large empty floor, seven chairs; one for each detainee. The detainees are all being held for things which aren’t actually crimes but bring them under suspicion; wearing a hijab, having a Nazi great-uncle, wanting to emigrate to Sri Lanka, converting to Islam, having a terrorist brother, protesting immigration restrictions, being transgendered. They are posed essentially unanswerable Kafkaesque questions by the State interrogator (Martha Burns) sitting off in one corner with a microphone. The only answer is to express frustration and despair and, occasionally, defiance and hope in arias using Handel’s music and words by either Handel’s librettist or Joel Ivany. Some of the music has been somewhat reshaped by Kevin Lau who also wrote/arranged the final ensemble number.
I’ve attended many very good concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre but I’m not sure I’ve ever attended one as intense as Tracy Dahl and Liz Upchurch’s Songs from the Heart recital today. Tracy really is a rather extraordinary artist. She is the antithesis of the lieder singer who stands demurely by the piano and Schuberts mellifluously. She throws every fibre of her being into the performance. It’s not campily histrionic but voice, facial expression and gesture are all used to the full whether she’s hiccupping a drunken Harlequin or sibilantly suggesting a slithery singing snake.