The TSO has announced its 2020/21 season; the first under new Music Director Gustavo Gimeno. It looks pretty much “steady as she goes”. There is no radical departure from past programming. Is heavy on mainstream romantic rep with a ton of Beethoven as this year’s anniversary boy. There are the usual seasonal, pops and young persons offerings as well.
Catalan collective Els Comediants’ production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is back at the COC in a revival of the 2015 production. Five years ago I described it as a “glorious romp” and, based on yesterday’s performance, I see non need to amend that judgement. It may be even better this time. It still has Joan Guillén’s wonderfully colourful and silly costumes and sets and it still has Joan Font’s inspired directing; perhaps even crisper this time. Once again it has a wonderful cast of international and Canadian singers including a reprise of Bartolo by the admirable Renato Girolami.
The second half of January kicks off with the COC’s revival production f Rossini’s Barber of Seville, this time starring Emily D’Angelo as Rosina. There are eight performances running to February 7th.
. Sunday 26th at 2pm there’s a concert in the Mazzoleni Songmasters series. It’s called Sirens and features Leslie Ann Bradley, Allyson McHardy and Rachel Andrist in a suitably watery and alluring program.
This year the TSO used the Mozart arrangement for Handel’s Messiah (though, naturally enough, with the original English text). I have mixed feelings about it. It’s not hugely different in sound to whichever of Handel’s versions one is used to and it’s definitely not one of those 20th century versions for 100 piece orchestra and massed choirs but I’m hard pressed to see what the point is other than it’s Mozart.
The COC season continued last night with Atom Egoyan’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, first seen in January 2014. There are some changes from the previous outing but most of what I had to say about the production holds good still. This time there have been cuts. The show now runs as two ninety minute acts plus an interval and it feels tighter and doesn’t drag so much in the second act. In the process some of the heavy handed symbolism has been discarded; fewer pinned butterflies. I think the physical comedy may have ratcheted up just a touch but maybe that’s me misremembering. And the girls are brunettes, rather than redheads, but still well matched enough to look like sisters. Musically, I think it’s been lightened up somewhat. Bernard Labadie, something of a period specialist, conducts and Michael Shannon accompanies the recits on a fortepiano. But, still, fundamentally the same show.
And so the final act. First on stage was Emily D’Angelo; the only lady left in the competition. It was an accomplished and varied set. She started with a characterful and technically proficient Una voce poco fa followed by an appropriately lyrical Must the winter come so soon?Coeur sans amour from the Massenet Cendrillon showed off excellent French before a suitably dramatic rendering of the Komponist’s aria from Ariadne. Pretty much all the mezzo bases covered there and covered very well.
And so to the aria competition. Twenty four singers in three sessions are competing for twelve places in the semifinals. It’s piano for the first round but after that it’s the Maison Symphonique and the OSM. As with the art song competition I’ve tried to keep my session reports free of hindsight. This one was written between the afternoon and evening sessions last night. It will be followed by a report on yesterday evening and tomorrow should see the post on the third session and the judges decisions.
First up in afternoon was Canadian mezzo Carolyn Sproule. She kicked off with Strauss’ Wie du warst!, followed it up with Printemps qui commence from Samson et Delila and finished up with Ah! Quando all’ara scorgemi from Maria Stuarda. It was all pretty good. She’s a genuine mezzo with power enough and she got more dramatic as the set went on. I thought it was maybe a little under-characterised but compared to much of what came later it was positively thespian.
Yom HaShoah; the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust (and maybe the survivirs are victims in their own way too) started at sunset last night. Earlier in the day Sara Schabas, Laura D’Angelo and Geoffrey Conquer presented a concert of Holocaust related music in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.
I went to Roy Thomson Hall last night to hear an all Vaughan Williams program conducted by Peter Oundjian. It’s not really my thing but there was a fine quartet of soloists lined up for the Serenade to Music.
Things got going with the Fantasia on “Greensleeves” which was perfectly OK if a bit hackneyed. There was a decent account of the Concerto for Oboe and Strings with Sarah Jeffrey as the soloist. Then there was the Serenade. For some reason the soloists were lined up with the choir (the Elmer Iseler singers) behind the orchestra. The result was sonic mush and textual porridge. I caught exactly one word of the text; “stratagems” for what it’s worth. The rest was not recognisable as English, let alone understandable. And, of course, it was too dark to read the supplied text. This despite soloists; Carla Huhtanen, Emily D’Angelo, Lawrence Wiliford and Tyler Duncan, who are consistently excellent with text. This is becoming very annoying. As often as not when I go to see the TSO do vocal works the soloists are either inaudible or incomprehensible. I know the hall is difficult but the performance of the Ryan Requiem last week showed that it is possible to showcase singers. I think it’s really unfair to audiences and singers alike. Anyway, I was so fed up that I left at the interval.
So after a bit of a hiatus the Toronto music scene is coming back to life. The Toronto Summer Music Festival has kicked off and the main interest for followers of the vocal arts lies in the Art Song fellows project with concerts at 1pm on each of the next two Saturdays in Walter Hall (free but tickets required). Then the vocal highlight of the festival; Soile Isokoski in recital with Martin Katz at 7.30pm on the 18th at Walter Hall. The programme includes the Schumann Mary Stuart songs, the Strauss Ophelia songs plus some Wolf and, of course, Sibelius. Ms. Isokoski is also giving a public masterclass in Walter Hall on the 23rd at 2pm.