Five star Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra opened last night in a revised version of James Robinson’s 2007 production.  The setting is fairly straightforward and a bit drab; vaguely Victorian, or perhaps Gormenghast, which seems about right for the hagridden House of Atreus.  The stage is severely raked; back to front. and stage left to right.  There are a couple of walls with entrances.  There’s a strange little hut which, it turns out, forms a sort of trap door to the palace.  Costumes are either shapeless (ladies) or vaguely reminiscent of evening wear (gentlemen).  In this setting the action plays out convincingly enough with even difficult scenes like Elektra’s “death dance” well handled.  The tricky scenes between Elektra and Klytämnestra and Elektra and Orest have the appropriate degree of tension and suspense.

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Looking ahead

Here’s what’s coming up of note in the next few weeks.

event_2132There are some interesting things coming up at the UoT Faculty of Music.  On January 17th at 7.30pm there’s an opera double bill in Walter Hall featuring Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven and The Maiden from the Sea (Futari Shizuka).  Kristina Szabó features in the first piece with Xin Wang in the second.  The composer conducts.  See Wallace’s comment below for more information. Then at 2.30pm on January 20th in the MacMillan there’s the Student Opera Collective show.  The libretto, as ever, is by Michael Patrick Albano.  This time it’s a black comedy whodunnit about the death of Adriana Lacouvreur.

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Flurries

CussonThere have been a series of interesting announcements about composers and commissions from the Canadian Opera Company recently.  First is the announcement that Ian Cusson is to become composer-in-residence from August 2019.  Cusson is part Métis and, readers may recall, featured as half of a memorable evening kicking off the new Confluence concert series in October.  There’s an initial commission announced too.  He will work with Colleen Murphy on a piece for “families and young people” that weaves elements of myth into a contemporary urban setting.

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Trending turkeywards

turkeySo one thing can be guaranteed in December; lots of Messiah.  This year I have four on the radar.  There’s the TSO of course.  This year Johannes Debus conducts with soloists Claire de Sévigné, Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji and Tyler Duncan.  One might almost have expected the COC Chorus but actually it’s the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in the loft.  That one runs December 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd at 8pm and the 23rd at 3pm.  Roy Thomson Hall of course.  Over at Tafelmusik, it’s Ivars Taurins with Sherezade Panthaki, Krisztina Szabó, Charles Daniels and Drew Santini plus, of course, the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir.  That’s on December 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm. The Sing-a-Long version is at Roy Thomson Hall at 2pm on the 22nd.  There’s also a workshop on the 8th at 2pm at Eglinton St. George’s United Church.

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Centre Stage

Centre Stage is the COC’s annual gala/competition with cash prizes and places in the Ensemble Studio at stake.  Last night eight young singers competed.  The format was one aria before the reception; for judges and invited guests, and one after; for all the punters.  So here, in the order they sang in the first half are my thoughts.

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Ensemble Studio Competition finalists, Centre Stage 2018. Photo: Michael Cooper

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Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian

I finally got to see Rufus Wainwright’s new opera Hadrian, to a libretto by Daniel Macivor, at the Four Seasons Centre last night.  There’s been a lot of hype around it and I was interested; the few bits of music from it that I had heard intrigued me but I’m no fan of his earlier work Prima Donna.  One thing was certain.  The piece does not lack ambition. There are four acts totalling something like 160 minutes.  There’s a large cast, a large orchestra, a large chorus and an epic storyline.  It’s clearly an attempt to produce a “grand opera” for our times.  Does it succeed?

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Competition news

The line ups for both the COC’s Centre Stage competition and the IRCPA’s Ten Singing Stars: The Next Generation have been announced.  The former, besides cash prizes, is also the principal route into the COC’s Ensemble Studio program.  The latter gets the winner an IRCPA Career Blueprint which includes three days at the National Opera Center in New York, new photographs, video and audio recordings, website consultation and mentoring with professionals.

At Centre Stage at the Four Seasons Centre on November 1st you can see:

  • Tenor Matthew Cairns of St. Catharines, ON
  • Soprano Vanessa Croome of Nanaimo, BC
  • Bass-baritone Aaron Dimoff of Owen Sound, ON
  • Bass-baritone Vartan Gabrielian of Toronto, ON
  • Tenor Rocco Rupolo of Toronto, ON
  • Mezzo-soprano Jamie Groote of Oakville, ON
  • Soprano Andrea Lett of Humboldt, SK
  • Soprano Noelle Slaney of Gander, NL

This is a gala starting with a reception at 5.30 pm.  Tickets at coc.ca.

The IRCPA concert is on November 5th at 7.15pm at Zoomer Hall.  Tickets at http://ircpa.net.  The line up is:

Sopranos:  Tonia Cianciulli, Jocelyn Fralick, Beth Hagerman, Teiya Kasahara, Kathleen Promane, Sara Schabas, Gwenna Fairchild-Taylor

Mezzo-soprano:  Georgia Burashko

Tenors:  Zachary Rioux, John-Michael Scapin