To Mazzoleni Hall yesterday to hear Christina Campsall’s graduating recital. I think over the course of the year she has become my “top tip” for this year’s graduating class at the Conservatory and nothing that happened yesterday did anything to shake that judgement. It was a pretty intense program that was definitely more shade than light but that, I think, rather suits her voice. The opening set, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, was a case in point. Dark, brooding texts, dark, brooding music and a dark, brooding voice with plenty of power. We have a mezzo here not a second soprano! That said, her high notes are all there and there seems to be plenty of power all through the registers, though to be fait I’ve only seen her once in a large hall and that was in operetta. Very good German too with a distinct northern inflection. All the consonants!
Things are really starting to slow down so this will be the last “upcoming” post before the summer lull when this feature will go on hiatus. Next week there’s the final vocal concert of the season in the RBA. It’s on Tuesday at noon when Karine Boucher will perform Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Charles Sy joining in with Britten’s Les Illuminations. On Sunday 21st at 5pm in Mazzoleni Hall, Christina Campsall has a recital of 20th century works including the challenging Messiaen piece, Poèmes pour Mi. It’s free.
Anna Theodosakis’ production of Britten’s Rape of Lucretia for MYOpera updates the piece from proto-historical Rome to somewhere in the mid 20th century which is fine but doesn’t seem, of itself, to add any layers of meaning to the narrative. There are neat visual touches in a simple but effective set design and the nature of and relationships between the characters are deftly drawn. The rape scene manages to be disturbing without being gratuitously graphic. It’s skilful theatre. But is that enough?
There’s not that much Handel on offer in Toronto so it seems really rather odd that Alcina should get two productions within eighteen months. The attraction of the piece for Opera Atelier was obvious. It’s Handel’s only opera that incorporates dance. Why the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory should think it’s a good choice for a student production is less clear. Dance aside, it’s classic Handel; written for an audience who expected great virtuosity from the star singers (in this case Giovanni Carestini and Anna Maria Strada) plus the very latest in analogue SFX. Neither of these could reasonably be expected at Koerner Hall.
Back to relative quiet! The main event in the coming week is the GGS spring production. They are doing Handel’s Alcina. The cast includes Meghan Jamieson, Irina Medvedeva, Christina Campsall, Lillian Brooks, Joanna Burt, Asitha Tennekoon and Keith Lam. Leon Major directs and Ivars Taurins conducts. The publicity material suggests a 1920s setting. Anyway it’s at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm on Wednesday and Friday.
There are a couple of kid friendly March break concerts in the RBA. Tuesday sees what seems to have become an annual event; Kyra Millan’s Opera Interactive. This year she is joined by Tina Faye and Charles Sy. Then on Thursday Cawthra Park Chamber Choir and conductor Bob Anderson, one of the GTA’s leading school choirs, present various choral traditions and styles from the Renaissance to contemporary Canadian works. Charles Sy, a Cawthra Park alumnus also features in this one. Both at noon of course.
Then at the Newmarket Theatre on Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm opera Luminata are performing. This is a rather odd spectacular thing with taped orchestra and pyrotechnics. I haven’t seen them but they got a rather more positive reception than I expected last time around. www.operaluminata.com for details.
The Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase at Mazzoleni Hall last night was a chance to see twenty of the school’s singers in action. It was a curious mix actually; one bass, one baritone, a handful of tenors and mezzos and a lot of sopranos. There was a huge range of age and experience too from 18 year old first years to quite seasoned post-grads. As usual with these things I’m not going to attempt to be comprehensive but instead focus on the highlights as I saw them. Continue reading →
Poulenc’s La voix humaine is a monodrama for voice and rather large orchestra based on a play by Jean Cocteau. There’s just the one character “Elle” and all we, the audience, hear, is one end of a telephone conversation between Elle and her, recently, ex-lover. It’s a highly emotionally charged piece and not easy to pull off. Last night, Christina Campsall and Brahm Goldhamer presented it in piano arrangement at Mazzoleni Hall with Oliver Klöter directing. It’s a piece that needs directing too as, in a sense, not a lot happens. It’s just a telephone call!
It’s another pretty busy week. There are two student shows today, both free. At 2.30pm in the MacMillan Theatre there’s a performance of a new opera based on EM Forster’s The Machine Stops. It’s by Patrick McGraw, Robert Taylor and Steven Webb. Sandra Horst conducts and Michael Albano directs. Then at 8pm in Mazzoleni Hall, Christina Campsall is performing Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine with Brahm Goldhammer providing piano accompaniment.
Xavier Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas, given last night by the Glenn Gould School at Mazzoleni Hall, may not be the most profound thing in the opera canon but it is fun. The 1948 score is jazzy and accessible and the libretto has fun with the fairy tale of the scheming cat and her gormless monkey servant. The lighter, even absurdist, elements of the plot were rather played up, and to good effect, in Liza Balkan’s production. Mazzoleni Hall is not the easiest place to present opera. There’s no pit and no way to do surtitles. Not much in the way of wing space or scenery handling either. Balkan got round this by placing the band on stage and using very simple sets and props that often spilled over into the auditorium even getting Charles Sy, sitting in the front row, to take a selfie of the wedding party at the end. Given that the Spanish numbers were not surtitled, it was smart to add extra English dialogue, much of it improvised. I certainly didn’t have any difficulty following the story. Credit too to lighting designer David Degrow too for making the most of the limited resources of Mazzoleni.
The Glenn Gould School’s production of Offenbach’s 1864 operetta La belle Hélène opened at Koerner Hall last night. Overall, it’s an enjoyable show with some strong performances though there are aspects of it that, in my view, rather missed the mark. Certainly it made me realise just what a difficult piece to really bring off really well La belle Hélène is. There are some very difficult singing roles and yet they need to sound effortless. It needs the exquisite comic timing of a bedroom farce. There’s also a difficult to define quality; very French and with a sexiness of the “I know it when I see it” variety. I think it was a shortage of this last that was largely the problem last night.