Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was a song recital with an Oriental(ist) theme by polyglot soprano Miriam Khalil and pianist Topher Mokrzewski. It kicked off with the two Suleika songs by Schubert to texts by Marianne von Willimer. For my taste Miriam’s voice and treatment of the songs was decidedly on the dramatic side. It was interesting and there’s no doubting the commitment but it’s not my favourite way to hear Schubert. It was all uphill from there though. Ravel’s Shéherazade; Debussy inspired music to texts by Tristan Klingsor, was given an equally dramatic treatment, and Miriam is very dramatic in both voice and body language, but here it worked for me, especially the passionate invocation of the invented East in Asie.
Hearing Anita Rachvelishvili sing Carmen on the main stage of the Four Seasons Centre, it was obvious that she had a huge voice with really interesting colours. The full scope only became apparent to me hearing her in recital in the RBA today. It’s an extraordinary instrument that can go from a very delicate pianissimo to very loud indeed without any obvious change in quality. There’s no steeliness or squalliness as the volume ramps up. Just the same colours and rich tone. A blow by blow account of a concert that included music in Georgian by Tabidze, Russian by Rachmaninov, French by Fauré and Spanish by de Falla seems superfluous. There was delicacy. There was drama. There was humour. There was playfulness. All in less than an hour. And to cap it off there were encores; Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix from Samson et Delilah and, perhaps inevitably, the Seguidilla from Carmen. Stephen Hargreaves was at the piano. One wonders if he actually lives at the hall. He covered a wide range of material from the delicate to the impressively percussive with his customary skill.
Clémentine Margaine prowled the RBA like an exotic and rather dangerous feline. A total stage animal, she created a stunning series of female personae, from the virginal to the very much not, to bring to life a well curated selection of Spanish and French pieces. She started with the 7 Canciones populares Españoles of de Falla which set the tone as they communicate a wide variety moods and temperaments in a very short space of time. Each little song was fully invested with its own drama. And her eyes. Incredible! Granados’ La maja dolorosa followed. By this point I was really beginning to understand why Ms. Margaine is so sought after. It’s a big, dark, sexy voice. I would probably have realised the sheer size of the voice more on Wednesday if I hadn’t been comparing her to the absolutely enormous sound of Anita Rashvelishvili. It’s a wonderfully expressive instrument perhaps lacking a really strong upward extension but, overall, lovely to listen to.
This Sunday sees the first of the season for Recitals at Rosedale. Entitled A Walk on the Dark Side: Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales, it will feature soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, mezzo soprano Allyson McHardy and baritone Geoff Sirett with pianists Robert Kortgaard and Rachel Andrist. The programme features works by Mahler, Debussy, Symanowski, Weil, Gershwin and more. It’s on November 9th at 2.30 pm at Rosedale Presbyterian Church and tickets are available here.
Lauren Segal performs in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Chris Hutcheson
Today’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal and bass-baritone Robert Gleadow with Sandra Horst at the piano. The programme was titled Gypsy Songs, Travel Songs. First up was Robert, who looks considerable less rakish without a beard, with three songs from Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel. All three; The Roadside Fire, Bright is the Ring of Words and Whither Must I Wander are familiar recital fare but sung as well as this are a joy to hear. Gleadow has a big, full sound with quite a range of colour but he can also float very beautiful high notes. It was very impressive.
Lauren came next with Dvorák’s Cigánské melodie. These songs cover a wide range of moods, all vividly captured by Segal. Her voice is dark toned and very mezzo; no soprano 2 here! Onewould think her perfectly suited for gloomy Slavic rep until, as she did later, she cut loose on de Falla’s Siete canciones populares Españolas. Here she was every bit the dark eyed Spaniard singing with fiery passion of love and loss. Both sets ended with fierce, bravura numbers brought off with panache. The lady knows how to work a crowd!
According to Schmopera, the line up for 2014/15 for the Voicebox: Opera in Concert season at the Jane Mallett Theatre will be Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve, Weill’s Street Scene, Charpentier’s Louise and the premier of Isis and Osiris by composer Peter-Anthony Togni with a libretto by Sharon Singer, both Canadians. The only one of these I’m at all familiar with is La Vida Breve, which is rather good (DVD review). However there’s plenty of information on Isis and Osiris available here and here. The latter link includes almost 18 minutes of music from the piece.
All in all, as one has come to expect from Voicebox, an interesting line up. More details here as they become available.
Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve is often credited with being the first true Spanish opera. It’s certainly one of very few works in that language one might encounter in an opera house. It’s hard to see why it’s not performed more often. It’s a dramatic story about the tragic love affair of a gtpsy girl and a wealthy young man and the music is a blend of verismo and flamenco. The orchestration is quite exciting and the Spanish influenced vocal lines are very easy on the ear. It really ought to have a rather wide appeal.
Last night Opera Five staged a double bill of two one act Spanish operas from the first quarter of the twentieth century. The first was de Falla’s El retablo de maese Pedro. This was written as a puppet opera blending a chivalric tale about the days of Charlemagne with an intervention by an increasingly angry Don Quixote. Structurally it’s an interesting piece with the story being told to a quite simple vocal line by the soprano (Rachel Krehm) playing the puppet master’s boy with interruptions by her boss (Conrad Siebert) and, increasingly, by the one man audience, Don Quixote (Giovanni Spanu). In between the action is acted out by shadow puppets accompanied by a a rather lush “soundtrack”. Finally Don Quixote loses patience with the whole thing and tears down the set before going on a rant about the virtues of knights errant and himself in particular. Staged as a sort of children;s game by director Aria Umezawa, it played very well to this company’s strengths. It was well sung, clever, funny, irreverent and enormously enjoyable. Music director Maika’i Nash once again did that thing I find incredible,m impersonating a whole orchestra on piano, this time with some help from Conrad Siebert on various percussion instruments.
I’m having a hard time keeping up with everything that’s going on in the Toronto opera scene. The latest thing to hit my inbox is a new show from Opera Five. These are the “food and opera” guys and this time it’s tapas and sangria and Spanish opera. They are doing two pieces; de Falla’s El Retablode maese Pedro, which features puppets, and Granados’ Goyescas, which is based on paintings by Goya. I think the only “puppet opera” I’ve seen before was the mash up of Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schaulspieldirektor that Salzburg did in 2006 so this should be fun.
The show is at Gallery 345 which is at 345 Sorauren and there are three performances on April 29th, May 1st and May 2nd. Tickets are available online at http://o5besame.eventbrite.ca or at the door (cash only).