April is a busy month for fully staged opera. Canadian Opera opens two productions and there are shows from Opera Atelier, Against the Grain and Essential Opera. First up is the COC’s revival of Robert Lepage’s production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. This opens on April 13th and runs to May 13th. In 2009 it sold out so this time there are nine performances. Also at the COC there’s Donizetti’s Anna Bolena completing the Tudor trilogy. It opens on April 28th with nine performances closing May 26th.
There have been quite a few announcements in the last couple of weeks or so. Here’s what’s coming up.
Essential Opera is back after a hiatus. They are doing a single performance of Gianni Schicchi at 3pm on April 22nd at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (the one up near the Arctic Circle). Kevin Mallon conducts the Toronto Orchestra with a really good line up of soloists.
21C is back from May 23rd to 27th with a varied lineup. Perhaps the most interesting concert from a vocal point of view is vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis with violinist and singer Maarja Nuut and electronic music composer Hendrik Kaljujärv in works by Arvo Pärt, David Lang, and Helena Tulve. The concert is presented in partnership with Estonian Music Week and it’s on the 26th at 8pm.
Here is what’s coming up. Valentine’s day sees two vocal recitals. At noon in the RBA there’s Clare de Sévigné and Rachel Andrist with The Truth about Love; the story of a young woman’s love gone awry. At 8pm Ian Bostridge has an all Schubert program at Koerner Hall. Thursday is also busy with members of the Ensemble Studio in a Russian program in the RBA at noon, a Johannes Debus masterclass at UoT at 2pm and Opera Trivia at the Four Seasons Centre at 7pm. Then on Friday at 7.30pm in Walter Hall there’s a free concert; Vocalini, from the undergrads of the UoT Opera. Also Thursday and Friday MYOpera have a couple of opportunities to see emerging artists. There’s a public masterclass with Philip Morehead at 6pm Thursday at the Edward Jackman Centre and a concert at 7.30pm Friday at the Vandenberg House.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a preview for Peepshow which opened last night at Campbell House. Summarizing crudely, the idea was to present a show that broke down some of the barriers of formality that make the opera house intimidating and so open up the genre to a different kind of audience. So did Peepshow do that? The answer has to be “to some extent”. There were four shows in four rooms and in an ideal world they would have each played at intervals throughout the evening and people would have been able to drop in and out as they chose. The geography of Campbell House simply doesn’t make that possible. It’s a 19th century house with stairs and corridors and fairly small rooms with mostly “do not touch” furniture. Each room will only hold a dozen, in a couple of cases perhaps twenty people, in comfort levels ranging from OK to excruciating. This means that audience members must be assigned to specific performances, rounded up and herded to their allotted place at the right time; or as close to it as possible as it always takes longer to herd an opera audience than anyone imagines. And no drinks in the performance rooms. Once in, for an admittedly only fifteen minute show, you are as stuck as in a performance of Parsifal at Bayreuth. In other words, rather than a fluid experience it’s a series of chunks of more or less traditional concert hall broken up by some socializing at the bar.
I find it somewhat ironic that while “traditionalists” want to return to the opera house experience of the 1950s, there are younger, more radical, groups that look more to the opera audience experience of the 1750s. The argument goes “Young people don’t come to the opera house because of the experience. It’s a stuffy crowd. You have to sit still and quiet for hours in the hushed, darkened auditorium. You can’t get trashed, just maybe a glass of wine at the interval if you are lucky”. Thank you Mahler and Wagner with your Holy Temple of the Arts! Whatever happened to going to the opera house to hang out with your friends, play cards and bonk that rather cute countess in the discretely dark recesses of her box?
Good heavens it’s March already! There’s lots coming up in the Toronto vocal music scene. This Saturday sees George Benjamin’s Written on Skin in concert performance with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall. Chris Purves and Barbara Hannigan from the original cast are singing with Bernhard Landauer coming in for Bejun Mehta as the Boy. The composer conducts.
There are a couple of Essential Opera shows scheduled for the KW area in June. On June 7th at 2pm they are presenting a double bill of Haydn’s L’isola disabitata and Donizetti’s Il campanello at the New Hamburg Festival of the Arts. Singers include Maureen Batt, Erin Bardua,Stefan Fehr and Giovanni Spanu. Tickets are $20 (free for students) and available here.
Not sure how this managed to fly under the radar but Essential Opera have a show of three Canadian premieres at Heliconian Hall on April 5th. The works are:
Composed by Monica Pearce, libretto by John Terauds
Pitting politeness and perfection against the harsher facts of life, through the eyes of Dorothy Parker, Emily Post and Nancy Astor.
Learn more about Monica and her music on her website: http://www.monicapearce.com
Composed by Elisha Denburg, libretto by Maya Rabinovitch
The story of Regina Jonas, the first woman to be ordained a rabbi – in 1935 Berlin – and the young student who discovers her truth.
Learn more about Elisha and his music on his website: http://www.elishadenburg.com
Heather (Cindy + Mindy = BFs 4EVER)
Composed by Christopher Thornborrow, libretto by Julie Tepperman
A hard-hitting introduction to the vicious reality of online bullying between girls and young women.
Learn more about Chris and his music on his website: http://christhornborrow.com/
A “first draft” of part of the last was featured at a Tapestry Shorts show not so long ago.
The performance team is:
Music director: Cheryl Duvall
Conductor: David Passmore
Erin Bardua, soprano
Maureen Batt, soprano
Julia Morgan, mezzo
Keith O’Brien, baritone
Jesse Clark, baritone
There’s a crowd funding project and more details at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-canadian-premieres-with-essential-opera
Three shows that might be worth a look are coming up in the GTA. Essential Opera are doing a show called Two Weddings and a Funeral which pairs Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with Donizetti’s Il campanello. It’s at Heliconian Hall on March 15th at 7.30pm. It will be semi-staged with piano accompaniment. Soup Can Theatre are also presenting a double bill of Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Sartre’s No Exit (in English translation). The former will be accompanied by a 14 piece band and the latter, no doubt, by wailing and gnashing of teeth. The show runs March 28th to 30th at the Tapestry Opera Studio in the Distillery district. Finally, Opera Hamilton are presenting Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles at the Dofasco Theatre in Hamilton. This is a fully staged show with full orchestra and features Virginia Hatfield and Brett Polegato. There are four shows from March 9th to 16th. At time of writing no sopranos had been injured by falling scenery.
Last night I went to see Essential Opera’s cheap and cheerful production of Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. It was a semi staged production in the relatively small Heliconian Hall. Semi-staged in this case meant sung in costume from music stands with very basic blocking. Accompaniment was by Cathy Nosaty on piano and accordion which actually suited the music pretty well.
The singing was good, sometimes very good. Probably the stand out was Laura McAlpine’s Jenny. Of all the singers on display she was the one who seemed most immersed in the sound world of the piece and could vary style and technique appropriately. Erin Bardua’s Lucy Brown was really quite idiomatic too. The others were more consistently operatic which sounded a bit odd in places but worked surprisingly well in, for example David Roth and Heather Jewson’s rather refined refined and bourgeois Peachums. Obviously this approach also worked for the character who are usually sung operatically; Macheath, Brown and Polly for example. The ensembles were all also very effective.