Will They Ever Nomi and Medusa’s Children

There’s a new video up on the Confluence Concerts Youtube channel.  It’s a lecture recital by counter-tenor Ryan McDonald about Klaus Nomi.  It’s an interesting and scholarly attempt to situate Nomi in the context of both his own time and place (1970s/80s New York City) and in the context of contemporary queerness in the classical music world.  There’s also some singing.  Ryan, accompanied by Ivan Jovanovic, performs some of the material associated with Nomi including a couple of “diva arias” and songs by Dowland, Schumann and Purcell.

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A Simple Twist of Fate

Confluence Concerts returned to live performance last night at Heliconian Hall.  The concert, curated by Patricia O’Callaghan, was titled A Simple Twist of Fate and featured an eclectic mix of music either on the topic of Fate or that was entwined with the fates of the performers.

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Lots of Beckwith

John Beckwith turned 95 a little while ago and there’s some good celebratory material up on Youtube.  Confluence Concerts are rereleasing their three concerts from last year.  The first one is here.  Plus, Canadian Art Song project have a really lovely film of Krisztinaa Szabó and Steven Philcox performing The Four Short Songs to texts by Kandinsky.  The location filming is the work of Jenn Nicholls and Patrick Hagerty and it’s gorgeous.  The performance is rather good too.

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A tale of three panels

I spent three hours earlier today listening to three panel discussions about the issues involved in presenting Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.  The overall event was titled Grappling with Madama Butterfly Today: Representation, Reclamation, Re-imagination.  They were three very different panels as we shall see.  But first some context.  The event was co-presented by Confluence Concerts, Amplified Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, and the Humanities Initiative at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.  One of the “triggers” for the event was the planned revival of Madama Butterfly at the COC (now to be done as an “on-line” event of some description) though one might have listened to the discussions without actually realising that.

The first panel consisted of COC boss Perryn Leach with soprano Teiya Kasahara, soprano Jaclyn Grossman and Boston Lyric’s Jessica Johnson Brock.  I expected it to tackle the problematic nature of Madama Butterfly head on, as indeed the other two panels did, but it didn’t.  It got sidetracked into essentially blind alleys about whether the work should be performed at all and whether one should always cast Asians in Asian roles and such.  I got the strong feeling that no-one involved wanted to touch the issue of why, in 2022, the COC had planned to present a thoroughly unreflective, indeed deeply racist and sexist, production of the work.  And that in the context of a season of three problematic operas presented in equally unambitious productions.  Indeed, so unambitious that Leech’s deputy has described Mozart’s The Magic Flute as a “whimsical comedy”.  Brigid Brophy must be gyrating in her crypt.  Why was the discussion so anodyne?  I think it comes down to power dynamics.  Perryn Leech advanced views that I think can be summed up as “as long as we present enough new work (preferably short stuff on small stages) and do a few token events like this one it’s OK to give the bougie donors their fix.  Even if that fix is racist and misogynist.  Nobody challenged this.  After all, if you are a young woman trying to make her way in the deadly world of opera why would you call out the most powerful person in Canadian opera?

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Streaming round up

hanniganyoukaliHere’s a quick list of new (relatively) and upcoming web content (the obvious Youtube channel unless otherwise specified):

  • Massey College have a “Music Salon” up.  It features Ian Cusson and Rebecca Cuddy with Métis musicologistRena Roussin discussing the role of Indigenous art music in the Canadian music scene with a particular focus on the Métis.  In between the talking head sequences there’s the performance of Ian’s Five Songs to Poems by Marilyn Dumont that was webbed by Soundstreams a little while back.  If you are the one reader of this blog who has not yielded to my encouragement to explore these songs please get on with it!
  • Barbara Hannigan has a music video of Weill’s Youkali with theLudwig orchestra. (Alpha Classics channel).  Cool footage of Finisterre which might not exactly evoke Youkali but it’s pretty much my land of dreams.

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Bach III

The third and final concert in Confluence Concerts and the Toronto Bach Festival’s presentation of the Bach cello suites is now on line.  It features Andrew Downing playing the Suite No.2 in D minor BWV1008 on double bass and Ryan Davis playing the Suite No.5 in C minor BWV1011 on viola.  Both pieces were recorded in front of a live audience at Heliconian Hall.

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Bach cello suites II


The second of three concerts of the Bach cello suites prresented by Confluence Concerts and the Toronto Bach Festival is now up on Confluence’s Youtube channel.  There’s an hour or so of really nice cello playing with Kieran Campbell playing the Suite no.4 and Eleanor Fry performing the Suite no.6.  The most interesting segments though are hearing the musicians talk about their rather unusual instruments.  Kieran was playing an early 18th century instrument that is quite a bit larger than a modern cello and has no spike at the foot.  It’s strung with gut of course though two of the strings are metal wrapped.  Eleanor’s instrument is a modern reproduction of a baroque five stringed cello.  I had no idea such a thing existed!  As with all the Confluence streams, technical quality is impeccable.  Definitely worth a look.

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A couple more shows

Cello+Suites+square+(with+text)Here are a couple more shows I missed one way or another.

Tomorrow (October 29th) at 7pm the second of Confluence’s Bach cello suites concerts will be streamed on Youtube.

Saturday November 13th at3 pm at St. Andrew’s Church in Toronto and Friday November 19th at 7.30pm at People’s Theatre for the Performing Arts in Markham, Toronto City Opera are doing Verdi’s <em>Nabucco</em> in concert. It’s the usual formula; young local singers, volunteer choir and piano accompaniment. There will be no surtitles but the libretto will be available plus a narrator. More details here.

Confluence Concerts 2021/22

js-bachConfluence Conerts has announced its 2021/22 season with some details to be firmed up when anyone figures out what the “new normal” actually is.  First up is a presentation of the Bach suites for solo cello in conjunction with the Toronto Bach Festival.  They are being performed at Heliconian Hall and recorded for later, free, Youtube streaming on Confluence’s channel.  There will be some tickets available for the live performance but no details on that yet.  The performances are as follows:

Cello Suites No. 1 in G Major BWV 1007 and No. 3 in C Major BWV 1009
Concert September 22nd at 7pm at the Heliconian Hall
YouTube premiere October 1st
With Winona Zelenka  and Michelle Tang, cello

Cello Suites No.4 in E-flat Major BWV 1010 and No. 6 in D Major BWV 1012
Concert October 21st at 7pm at the Heliconian Hall
YouTube premiere October 29th
With Keiran Campbell, cello and Elinor Frey, violoncello piccolo

Cello Suites No. 2 in D Minor BWV 1008 and No. 5 in C Minor BWV 1011
Concert November 3rd at 7pm at the Heliconian Hall
YouTube premiere November 10th
With Andrew Downing, double bass, and Ryan Davis, viola

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In other news…

confluence_mandala_sJust a couple of “listings”:

Confluence are repeating most of their season during May.  All concerts are free of charge, “premiere” at 7:00 pm on the Confluence YouTube Channel and will remain available for viewing for 48 hours.

  • Monday, May 10th – Walter Unger Salon; Aging and Creativity
  • Wednesday, May 12th – Something to Live For; A Billy Straythorn Celebration
  • Friday, May 14th – Mandala; the Beauty of Impermanence
  • Sunday, May 16th – Tuesday May 18th – The John Beckwith Songbook (3 concerts)
  • Thursday, May 19th – Gracias a la vida; Celebrating Astor Piazzolla and Mercedes Sosa

Full descriptions of each concert are here. I reviewed them all first time up so if you want to know what I thought it it’s easy enough to find. Continue reading