The COC’s 2022/23 season opened last night with a revival of David Alden’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegender Holländer with Marilyn Gronsdal directing. It’s been eleven years since this production was last seen and, if memory serves, it created some controversy back then, chiefly on account of the Dutchman’s “zombie” crew. Seeing it again it’s hard to see what the fuss was about. It’s actually a very straightforward production where sailing ships are sailing ships and spinning sheds feature textile workers. The only deviation from the libretto that I noticed was Senta’s death. Here she’s shot by Erik while holding up a picture of the Dutchman.
Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle is a twisted little opera with wonderful music. Atom Egoyan’s film Felicia’s Journey is equally twisted and also derived at root from the Bluebeard material. So it makes sense to mash them up and that, essentially, is what Egoyan has done in the latest on-line presentation from the COC.
In Winter is the latest digital offering from the COC and is available free until June. Described by the COC as a concert that “explores and celebrates winter” it’s more a Eurocentric potpourri of seasonal fare with a decidedly Christmas twist. It’s a cut above “Christmas’ Greatest Hits” though a John Rutter arrangement of Deck the Halls and I’ll be Home for Christmas are in that vein and even the exuberance and lovely voice of Midori Marsh can’t make more of The Twelve Days of Christmas than is there to be had.
The COC/AtG film of Mozart’s Requiem is now available for viewing. It’s free but requires either registration with AtG or a (free) COC digital membership. Directed by Joel Ivany, it’s essentially cast as a reflection on what we lost during the pandemic and as a statement of hope as, maybe, we reach the end.
The first virtual offering if the COC’s season is now available at coc.ca. It’s a ninety minute concert featuring Tamara Wilson, Russell Braun and the COC orchestra with Johannes Debus conducting. The choice of rep is fairly “safe” with plenty of Verdi and Puccini though there’s quite a lot of Wagner too. Both singes are in good voice; Tammy Wilson very much so. Her “Ben io t’invenni… Anch’io dischiuso” from Verdi’s Nabucco is dramatic and there’s a moving “Vissi d’arte”, “Tacea la notte placida… Di tale amor” from Il Trovatore gives evidence of flexibility and precision as well as power in and she gives an excellent Liebestod to finish. Russell sounds really lyrical especially in that concert favourite “Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen” and in Wolfram’s “O du, mein holder Abendstern”.
Against the Grain’s Messiah/Complex is a rewarding, actually quite fascinating, piece of work. It’s condensed to around 80 minutes but most of the well known numbers feature in some form. Each takes the form of a filmed vignette filmed somewhere in Canada. Some locations are urban, some are very much not; from David Pecaut Square to the high Arctic. Twelve soloists and a number of different choirs are used. Some pieces are sung in the original English but five other languages are also used. The non-English pieces are not translations in fact they subvert Charles Jennens’ theology in some really interesting ways. The TSO (or at least a bit of it) conducted by Johannes Debus provides the accompaniment. The performances are good, the filming is excellent and the technical quality is first rate. You can watch it for yourself at this link.
Last night Koerner Hall live streamed a concert by the COC orchestra conducted by Johannes Debus with guest soloist Adrienne Pieczonka. It was a mostly Beethoven concert bookended by the Egmont Overture and the Symphony No.2. In between came a set of more Beethoven, Schubert and Wagner sung by Adrienne.
There are schedule changes to the RCM’s line-up of webstreams. The key ones are that last weekend’s recital with Elliot Madore and Rachel Andrist that went ahead without an audience will be streamed at 8pm tomorrow and it’s free.
The December 3rd concert with Adrianne Pieczonka, assorted vanishing tenors, Johannes Debus and the COC Orchestra will go ahead sans tenors. That one is ticketed ($50 I think) and streams live at 8pm.
Unsurprisingly the programme at the RCM is in a state of flux as they try to cope with the gyrations of the provincial government so do check anything and everything close to the expected date.
The Ensemble Studio Competition again last night. Seven singers were competing with Ben Heppner’s jokes for cash prizes, champagne and, possibly, a place in the COC Ensemble Studio. There’s one thing I think is vital to understand about the Ensemble Studio Competition. The judges have been working with the singers for a week. The audience gets to hear them sing one aria. It’s easy to see why there isn’t always concurrence between the hall and the judging table. (That’s my excuse anyway).
The contestants with Alexander Neef and Johannes Debus
David McVicar’s production of Dvořák’s Rusalka opens with a prelude while the overture plays. We see the Foreign Princess and the Prince. She appears to be upbraiding him and he is drinking hard. Are we seeing a failed/forced marriage that in reality the Prince made rather than some preferred alternative? Is what we see over the next three and half hours some dream version of what might have been? In this most Freudian of operas, why not?