Bliss it was

CHSA5242The latest release on the Chandos label from Sir Andrew Davis consists of three works by Sir Arthur Bliss; The Enchantress, Meditations on a Theme by John Blow and Mary of Magdala.

The Enchantress was written for Kathleen Ferrier and premiered in 1951.  The text is a free adaptation of the Second Idyll of Theocritus by playwright Henry Reed.  The preface to the score tells us that:

 

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A first look at UoT this year

The students of the post graduate program at UoT Opera were on show in the RBA yesterday with a show made up of staged opera excerpts curated and directed by Michael Patrick Albano.  It’s right at the beginning of the academic year and these sorts of concerts are a bit of a calibration exercise for those of us who follow the progress of young singers.  The starting point this year is decidedly high.

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Songbook IX

Jacquenline-Woodley-600x218The ninth edition of Tapestry’s celebration of their back catalogue happened last night in the Ernest Balmer Studio.  This year’s mentors are Jacqueline Woodley and Andrea Grant.  The emerging artists are Elisabeth Boudreault, Lindsay Connolly, Brianna DeSantis, Ryan Downey, Gabrielle French, Rebecca Gray, Lauren Halász, Rachel Krehm, Brittany Rae, Anne-Marie Ramos and Jennifer Routier with pianists Qiao Yi Miao Mu and Ryoko Hou.

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Musique 3 Femmes preview

Yesterday’s concert in the RBA was a sneak preview of the material for a longer workshop/performance in the Ernest Balmer Studio on Saturday night.  The five works involved and the background are covered in this post.

We got excerpts from all five works with Jennifer Szeto at the piano and various combinations of Suzanne Rigden, Kristin Hoff and Lindsay Connolly singing.  There were also brief introductions to each piece from the creative teams.  What struck me most was how different the pieces were but how they seemed to reflect regional differences in musical expectations across Canada.  For example, the two works from Quebec both used extended/prepared piano with a bunch of extended vocal techniques in Margareta Jeric’s Suites d’une ville morte.  Laurence Jobidon’s L’hiver attend beaucoup de moi was perhaps more conventionally lyrical but it wasn’t a sound world one hears much in Toronto (at least in opera).

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Suzanne Rigden performing in the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

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Brett Dean’s Hamlet

A new opera by Australian Brett Dean based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet premiered at Glyndebourne this summer.  A recording of it was broadcast on BBC television on 22nd October.  I’ve now had a chance to watch it in full.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as it get somewhat mixed reviews.  I was impressed.  Very impressed.  First off, Matthew Jocelyn, who wrote the libretto, and Dean know how to turn a play into an opera.  They understand that it’s not just about taking a bunch of dialogue and giving it a soundtrack.  What they do is very clever.  All the text is Shakespeare but it’s split up and moved around.  There’s repetition and sometimes words are reassigned to different characters. Characters sing parallel lines. Then, of course, there’s a chorus.  A good example is when the players appear before performing The Death of Gonzago.  They get lines taken from various of Hamlet’s soliloquies chopped up and rearranged.  It’s effective and allows the main elements of the story to be told in under three hours of opera.  The main bit that’s missing is the whole Fortinbras and the Norwegians thing but that often gets cut anyway.

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Sweet prince

192996050Just been checking out the Glyndebourne 2017 season announcement.  Not that I’ll be going or anything but one production did catch my eye.  There’s a new Hamlet opera from Brett Dean and Matthew Jocelyn to be directed by Neil Armfield and conducted by Vladimir Jurowski which sounds promising enough but look at this cast: Allan Clayton (Hamlet), Sarah Connolly (Gertrude), Barbara Hannigan (Ophelia), Rod Gilfry (Claudius), Kim Begley (Polonius), John Tomlinson (Ghost of Old Hamlet).  There had better be a DVD.

Oh yes and they’ve unearthed yet another previously (more or less) unheard of Cavalli.

Toronto Summer Music Festival

There’s quite a lot for the vocal music fan in this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival though the only operatic opening is getting a bit Twilight Zone.  How often does an opera like Britten’s Rape of Lucretia get done in Toronto?  Well for now the answer is twice in quick succession because besides the MYOpera production later this month we are also getting a “semi-staged” version on July 22nd at 7.30pm at the Winter Garden Theatre.  It is a transplant from Banff originally created by Joel Ivany and Topher Mokrzewski but to be directed here by Anna Theodosakis.  The cast includes Emma Char (Lucretia), Peter Rolfe Dauz (Junius), Beste Kalender (Bianca), Jasper Leever (Collatinus), Iain MacNeil (Tarquinius), Ellen McAteer (Lucia), Owen McAusland (Male Chorus), and Chelsea Rus (Female Chorus).  That’s a pretty good cast but it does seem an odd choice.  Is the King Street streetcar contagious?

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