Last night marked the last performance I plan on seeing before the holidays so it’s time for the annual “best of” posting. So what did your scribe enjoy or admire the most in 2019? Let’s look at it by categories.
Fully staged opera with orchestra
The COC had a decent year but two of their shows stood out for me. David McVicar’s production of Rusalka in October was perhaps all round the best thing the COC have done in years. The production was clever in that interrogated the material enough to ask lots of questions for those willing to think about them without doing anything to upset those not so interested. Musically one really can’t imagine hearing Rusalka sung or played better anywhere in the world. The other winner was Elektra in January. The orchestra and the singing was the winner here, especially Christine Goerke, but the production was better than average and we don’t see enough of the great modern classics in the Four Seasons stage.
The latest concert in the Confluence series featured Marion Newman and friends addressing the question “What is Indigenous classical music?” through a carefully curated programme of works; all of which featured words by Indigenous women. We began with Marion singing Barbara Kroall’s Zasakwaa (There is a Heavy Frost) with words in Odawa describing the earth going to sleep for the winter with flute accompaniment by Stephen Tam. It was followed by Rebecca Cuddy singing three of the Five Songs on Poems by Marilyn Dumont by Ian Cusson. These are really fine settings of interesting, pithy, angry texts that have a wicked humour to them. I particularly like Letter to Sir John A. Macdonald which I’ve written about before.
On the 14th at 1.30pm in Walter Hall Jane Archibald and Liz Upchurch are giving a recital under the auspices of the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto (so this isn’t a free concert). The 15th sees the opening of a run of a “play with music” from Theatre Gargantua called The Wager which will run at Theatre Passe Muraille from the 14th (preview) to the 30th. It promises to be a “bold and irreverent investigation into the strange things that people believe”. It’s written by Michael Spence and directed by Jacquie PA Thomas and the cast includes Teiya Kasahara.
September 28th is shaping up as a bit daft from a scheduling point of view. I’ll be at the opening of Turandot at the COC but there are at least two other options. Confluence have a celebration of Clara Schumann at St. Thomas’ Church on Huron Street at 8pm. It features pianists Angela Park and Christopher Bagan, soprano Patricia O’Callaghan, actor Alison Beckwith, and violinist Ellie Sievers. The same day at 4pm Toronto Operetta Theatre have their season opener; Viva la Zarzuela. It’s at the St. Lawrence Centre and features tenor Rómulo Delgado. I guess one could just about do that and one of the evening shows.
June is shaping up to busier than one might expect. But first here’s one last announcement for May. On the 22nd B-Exalted have a choral concert at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at 8pm. Soloists are Dallas Chorley, soprano; Rebecca Gray, alto; Charles Davidson and David Walsh, tenors, and Janaka Welihinda, bass. More details here.
And so to June itself. There are two items of interest on June 1st. At Hart House Theatre at 2pm there’s a performance of Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music before it leaves for a tour of Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Israel. I’m curious to see how it’s developed since we saw a version that was still rather WIP in June 2017. Later, at 8pm at St. Thomas Anglican Church there’s the latest in the Confluence Series. This one is titled At the River and features, among others, Larry Beckwith, Dylan Bell, Ian Cusson, James Meade, Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan, Suba Sankaran, Jacqueline Teh and Giles Tomkins. This has become a “don’t miss” series.
What do you get when you take nine multi-talented musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds and give them a Purcell toy box to play in? You get the latest concert in the Confluence series; ‘Tis Nature’s Voice: Henry Purcell Reimagined. It’s an amazingly fun evening that completely blows the cobwebs off the often stuffy Toronto baroque music scene. I can’t do a number by number account because I completely lost track. I was having way too much fun.
March 29th and 30th Tapestry are doing the Songbook thing again. This is the show where an established singer; Jacqueline Woodley this time, works with emerging artists and a pianist (Andrea Grant) plus director Michael Mori to create a show based on Tapestry’s back catalogue. There are three shows at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery; Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 4pm and again at 8pm.