A lunchtime of Mozart, Strauss and Dvořák

Rachel_KrehmSo there’s another free (well almost, $5 suggested donation) lunchtime concert series.  It’s Music Mondays at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Trinity Square (A most worthwhile institution which has long taken a leading role in the fight for social justice in Toronto and, on top of that, I used to play rugby with a former incumbent).  As it happens yesterday saw the last concert of the 2015 season featuring the Canzona Chamber Players, conductor Evan Mitchell, and soprano Rachel Krehm.  The Canzonas are a pretty big band, 53 players yesterday, for a chamber group (I guess they have big chambers in Canzona) and could be very loud in the rather resonant church acoustic.

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September approaches

Rachel-66-pinwheel2It’s almost September which means there may even be stuff to write about soon.  Here’s what’s in my calendar so far.

August 31st at 12.15 pm there’s a concert in the Music on Mondays series featuring soprano Rachel Krehm and an orchestra conducted by Evan Mitchell performing Dove sono by Mozart, selections from Strauss Op 27 and Dvorak’s 8th Symphony.  It’s at Holy Trinity Church near the Eaton Centre. PWYC suggested $5.

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Gleadow and Segal go nomadic

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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!

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Some upcoming events

There a few things coming up in Toronto over the next week or two that might be worth a look.

segalgleadowTomorrow at noon in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre Lauren Segal and Robert Gleadow accompanied by Sandra Horst are giving a free concert featuring  Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, de Falla’s Siete canciones populares Españolas, Ibert’s Chansons de Don Quichotte and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel.

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A partridge without orange

It’s that time of year which marks the passing of the baton at the COC Ensemble Studio which is traditionally marked by a lunchtime farewell concert by some of the graduates.  Today’s Les Adieux featured soprano Sasha Djihanian, baritone Cameron McPhail and pianist Michael Shannon.

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A grim and gritty Rusalka

Martin Kušej’s 2010 production of Dvořák’s Rusalka at the Bayerisches Staatsoper is exactly the sort of production traditionalists fume about over their port and cigars.  It’s loosely based on the Fritzl and Kampusch imprisonment/child abuse cases.  The Water Goblin, aided by his wife, Ježibaba, have their children; Rusalka and her sisters, imprisoned in a wet cellar under their house.  The Water Gnome is clearly indulging in sexual abuse of the girls to the total indifference of his wife.  Rusalka dreams of a life among humans and of love.  She begs her mother to make her human/set her free.  This happens and Rusalka, mute and tottering on red heels, is free to pursue her romance with the prince.  Is this literal or all in Rusalka’s imagination?  Does it matter?  Continue reading

Rusalka in the nursery

David Pountney’s 1986 ENO production of Dvorak’s Rusalka is set in an Edwardian nursery. The action is all a dream or a figment of Rusalka’s imagination in which her grandfather, in a wheelchair, becomes the Water Gnome, her sisters water sprites, her governess the witch Jezibaba and so on. In Act 1 it works reasonably well. Clearly we are looking at a metaphor of Rusalka escaping the nursery for adult life with all the risks and discoveries that involves. It starts to get pretty strained in Act 2. There’s some not very subtle loss of virginity imagery but that’s about it. By Act 3 Pountney seems to have run out of ideas and the final denouement is played out pretty straightforwardly. Certainly there’s nothing in the ending to bring closure to the concept which seems like a cop out.

The performances, in English this being ENO, are mostly OK but not stellar. Elaine Hannan has a clear bright voice which suits the idea of Rusalka as a young girl but she doesn’t have the range of colour or dynamic range of, say, Renee Fleming. John Treleaven is rather good, if a bit stiff, as the Prince. You can definitely hear heldentenorish qualities in the voice. It’s a shame that, with his ‘tache and sideburns, he looks like a 1970s lounge lizard. Ann Howard is vocally competent as the governess/witch/Jezibaba but while she’s be fairly scary in a schoolroom she isn’t really the stuff of nightmares the part needs. Rodney Macann is a straightforwardly effective grandfather/Water Gnome but he doesn’t really dominate. The other parts are all quite well sung tough far from thrilling.Mark Elder conducts a rather routine sounding reading from the ENO Orchestra and Chorus. To be fair, part of the problem may be the sound, see below.

The video direction by Derek Bailey needs to be taken on its own terms for a record of what’s happening on stage it isn’t. There are lots of superpositions and some weird camera angles. It does reinforce the “dream” aspects of the production so I think it can be considered a valid approach.

 

Technically this is not a great disk. The 4:3 picture is 1986 TV to DVD quality. I suppose that, in a way, reinforces the dream quality too. The sound is very average Dolby 2.0. At times it’s worse than that. At the end of Act 1 it sounds like Treleaven is singing from the bottom of a well and nowhere does it do the orchestra any favours. There are no subtitles and the less than vivid sound makes it even harder than it otherwise might be to figure out the words. Documentation is limited to a track listing.

Given that Robert Carsen’s fascinating Paris production; strongly cast and well recorded, is also available on DVD it’s a bit hard to see why anyone would bother with this one.