Today’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured Lucia Cesaroni and Alysson McHardy with Rachel Andrist at the piano and Iain Scott narrating in a program that wasn’t, as expected, all Rossini. Rather it was music written by and for six of the women in Rossini’s life in a program inspired by Patricia Morehead. So what we got was plenty of Rossini, some Bellini, some Clara Schumann and music composed by the ladies themselves. I’m moderately familiar with the music of Pauline Viardot (younger sister of Maria Malibran) but I had never heard anything composed by Malibran, Isabella Colbran, Pauline Sabatier, Giuditta Pasta or Adelina Patti. As it turns out all were perfectly competent song composers and it was good to hear some rather rare material.
Not much sign of spring as we move into the second half of the month but there are some things musical to enjoy while we await the return of the sun. On March 18th at 2pm in Mazzoleni Hall there is You’re Welcome Rossini with the glamorous duo of Allyson McHardy and, the not seen often enough in Toronto, Lucia Cesaroni. This one is officially sold out but there may be rushes. Ten bucks says they do the Cat duet. Continue reading →
The Royal Conservatory of Music announced their 2017/18 concert season last night. There are over 100 concerts spread across just about every genre. I think the following are likely of most interest to Operaramblings readers.
November 10th 8pm Koerner Hall – Barbara Hannigan with Reinbert de Leeuw in all Second Vienna School concert. The pick of the season for me.
February 14th 8pm Koerner Hall – Ian Bostridge with Julian Drake in an all Schubert program.
April 22nd 3pm Koerner Hall – Gerald Finley with Julius Drake with a mix of art song and British and American folksong.
April 6th 2018 8pm Koerner Hall – Bernstein@100; a celebration of Lenny with the ARC Ensemble, Sebastian Knauer and the lovely Wallis Giunta.
By an odd coincidence two season announcement pressers hit my in box today; Toronto Operetta Theatre and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Toronto Operetta Theatre have four shows:
The Waltz Rivals (November 6th at 3pm) is a Léhar and Kálmán greatest hits show featuring Lucia Cesaroni, Adrian Kramer, Holly Chaplin, Stefan Fehr and Greg Finney with Michael Rose at the piano.
Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance runs from December 27th to January 8th, 2017. Colin Ainsworth sings Frederic, Vania Chan is Mabel and Curtis Sullivan is the Major General. Derek Bate conducts and Guillermo Silva-Marin directs.
Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier, based on George Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man, runs on April 26th, 28th, 29th and 30th, 2017. Peter Tiefenbach leads the orchestra and the cast includes Jennifer Taverner, Anna Macdonald, Michael Nyby and Stefan Fehr.
Finally there’s an Offenbach tribute concert on June 4th 2017.
All performances are at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
I caught the second and final performance of Isis and Osiris – Gods of Egypt presented by Voicebox:Opera in Concert yesterday. It’s a new piece with a libretto by Sharon Singer and music by Peter-Anthony Togni. It tells the story of mythical ancient Egypt under the rule of sibling consorts Isis and Osiris and there struggle with their brother Seth who embodies violence and chaos. In the process Seth disposes of Osiris in fourteen pieces but Isis manages to gather up all save the phallus. A golden replacement is made, Osiris is revived and the cosmic order restored. It’s quite a promising premise but it never really comes off.
Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are such a stock staple of amateur dramatic societies in the English speaking world that one might think they were easy to stage. They are not. They are a tricky genre; entirely sui generic and strewn with as many pitfalls as the field at Bannockburn. The first and greatest is the primacy of the text and, embedded in that, W.S. Gilbert’s relentless guying of English Victorian society. A director really has to choose to go with that or come up with something really rather different. In Toronto Operetta Theatre’s new production of The Mikado director Guillermo Silva-Marin hasn’t really done either. There’s nothing very new in this production which seems to focus mostly on the visuals; streamer twirling and fancy fan work. One senses the mostly young cast have been left to develop their own characters without a whole lot of help. It’s a big ask and the result is that much of the time, even when the words are fully audible, one senses the players aren’t really aware of what and where the joke is. It’s no surprise then that it’s the veterans of the cast who get closest to the essence of the piece. Both David Ludwig as Pooh-Bah and Giles Tomkins as The Mikado perform with sly wit and excellent diction. The Katisha of Mia Lennox is quite idiomatic too but perhaps lacking a bit of bite.
Well not so much “best of” as the good stuff that really made my year. It was a pretty good year overall. On the opera front there was much to like from the COC as well as notable contributions from the many smaller ensembles and opera programs. The one that will stick longest with me was Peter Sellars’ searing staging of Handel’s Hercules at the COC. It wasn’t a popular favourite and (predictably) upset the traditionalists but it was real theatre and proof that 250 year old works can seem frighteningly modern and relevant. Two other COC productions featured notable bass-baritone COC debuts and really rather good looking casts. Atom Egoyan’s slightly disturbing Cosí fan tutte not only brought Tom Allen to town but featured a gorgeous set of lovers, with Wallis Giunta and Layla Claire almost identical twins, as well as a welcome return for Tracy Dahl. Later in the year Gerry Finley made his company debut in the title role of Verdi’s Falstaff in an incredibly detailed Robert Carsen production. I saw it three times and I’m still pretty sure I missed stuff.
There were crazy choices available to concert goers in Toronto last nigt but enough chose Extensions of Us at the Extension Room (where else) to fill the joint. We were there to see a performance of piano, song and dance provided by the team of baritone turned tenor Adrian Kramer, soprano Lucia Cesaroni, dancers Jennifer Nichols (who also choreographed) and Justin De Bernardi with pianist and music director Maika’i Nash. The complex motivations for the show and the full line up of music is contained in my interview with Adrian and Lucia here.
I spoke earlier today with Lucia Cesaroni and Adrian Kramer (via Skype to the west coast where Lucia is appearing with Pacific Opera Victoria) about their upcoming “recital” Extensions of Us; Melody and Movement at the Extension Room on November 13th. It’s pretty much received wisdom that in Toronto the traditional art song recital is dying or maybe already dead. Certainly audiences have declined and the format seems unable to draw the younger audience, even of opera goers. I asked Lucia and Adrian about the motivation and inspiration for their show and also asked them to tell me a little more about what we are going to see and hear.
There a few things coming up in Toronto over the next week or two that might be worth a look.
Tomorrow at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Lauren Segal and Robert Gleadow accompanied by Sandra Horst are giving a free concert featuring Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, de Falla’s Siete canciones populares Españolas, Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel.