Wirth prize winner

The 2021/22 winner of the Wirth Vocal prize at McGill’s Schulich Schoolof Music is Innu soprano Elisabeth Saint-Gelais.  She performed in the RBA at noon on Wednesday, accompanied by Louise Pelletier.  It was impressive.  She has power to burn and a rather lovely voice and, not so common among young dramatic sopranos, considerable control across her registers.  She also displayed considerable linguistic skill in French, German and Czech though I’m completely unqualified to comment on the quality of her Anishinabe.

DSC08479

Continue reading

Classy singing from the Rebanks fellows

Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured the vocalist Rebanks fellows from the Glenn Gould School.  There was some very classy and very powerful singing.  We heard Hannah Crawford, fresh off her second place at Centre Stage, sing a couple of arias; “Pleurez, plearez mes yeux” from Masenet’s Le Cid and “Come Scoglio” from Cosí.  There was some very considerable power on display here as well as accuracy and emotion.  Definitely one to watch.

hannah

Continue reading

The Americas

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music offering in Walter Hall was American themed in the broadest sense.  The New Orford Quartet kicked things off with three pieces for string quartet.  The first was Piazzolla’s Tango Ballet in Bragato’s arrangement for string quartet.  It’s kind of tango/jazz fusion and great fun.  Jessie Montgomery’s Strum is a sort of homage to the southern American tradition of a different kind of string instrument.  Lots of complex pizzicato and other effects.  Carmen Braden’s Raven Conspiracy is a three movement work for spoken voice and quartet dealing with both the mythical and biological raven.  It’s playful and extremely virtuosic.  I was struck by the fact that the New Orfords are not just a very fine ensemble but a very flexible one.  Nothing seems to faze them!

neworford

Continue reading

Inspirations

Toronto Summer Music opened on Thursday night at Koerner Hall with a concert called Inspirations featuring chamber and vocal music drawn from folk influences.  It began with Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style Op. 102 for piano and cello played by Rachael Kerr and Matthew Zalkind.  The folk roots are pretty clear here and since the pieces were written with amateur performance in mind those roots aren’t over elaborated and the result is satisfying.  Not that they got an amateurish performance.  Quite the opposite.

TSM - Opening Night - 7.7.2022 - Photo Caroline Barbier de Reulle

Continue reading

Dark Rusalka from Glyndebourne

Melly Still’s production of Dvorák’s Rusalka, recorded at Glyndebourne in 2019 got rave reviews and, judging by the audience reaction on the recording. was enthusiastically received in the house.  Unfortunately I don’t think it works all that well on video despite some rather stunning stage pictures and generally strong performances.

Continue reading

Songs of Travel

The main purpose of yesterday’s RBA concert was to showcase the prodigious talents of the five members of the COC’s Orchestra Academy; Isabel Lago and Ah Young Kim (violins), John Sellick (viola), Mansur Kadirov (cello) and Peter Eratostene (bass).  The first half of the programme was the Allegro from Dvorák’s String Quintet No. 2 in G Major.  This was very nicely done and served as a satisfying prelude to the main event.

2020-01-29-Academy-004

Continue reading

Rusalka – Dream or Nightmare?

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?

19-20-02-MC-D-0171

Continue reading

reGENERATION week 2

The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall.  The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee.  The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation.  It was good.  Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction.  The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure.  There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.

Continue reading

COC 19/20 revealed

The COC 2019/20 season was revealed last night at the Four Seasons Centre.  I liked the set up this time.  A brief introduction from Alexander Neef, an overture and then a well scripted narrative, read by William Webster, describing the works in turn  within the theme of “Once Upon A Time”, with a performance of one number from each opera.  And so, what do we get:

Turandot 5513Puccini – Turandot – September 28th to October 27th 2019 – 9 performances.

This is the Robert Wilson production from Madrid.  Tamara Wilson and Marjorie Owens share the title role with Sergey Skorokhodov and Kamen Chanev as Calaf and Joyce El-Khoury/Vanessa Vasquez as Liu.  Carlo Rizzi conducts.  I’m not a huge fan of Wilson’s elegant but static productions but I could see it working for Turandot.  I’m told the usual Alfano completion will be used.

Lauren Margison gave us Liu’s aria. Continue reading

No sex please, we’re the Met

For some reason the Metropolitan opera decided, in 2014, to give an HD broadcast to Otto Schenk’s 1993 version of Dvorák’s Rusalka with revival direction by Laurie Feldman.  This production must have seriously old fashioned even then and actually looks and feels like it was created fifty years before the opera was written.  It’s not just the dark, dreary, over detailed Arthur Rackham like sets and costumes or even the the stock acting and the lame choreography.  The biggest problem is that it completely ignores that Rusalka is essentially about sex and its pathologies.  Does Schenk think that Rusalka wants to hold hands with the Prince at the cinema or take the Foreign Princess to the ball instead of Rusalka?  You would think so from this Disneyfied version.  Has the man even heard of Freud (let’s be clear Dvorák had)?  The result then is stultifyingly dull and actually just rather silly.  I’ve seen panto with more psychological depth.

1.gnome

Continue reading