I think my best recent discovery on the web has been Wigmore Hall’s Youtube channel. There’s a wealth of material in various genres but, from my point of view, the real glory are the song recitals. I’ve seen particularly good ones from Gerry Finley and Sarah Connolly and, more recently, really well thought out programmes from Allan Clayton and Stephanie Wake-Edwards and from Ema Nikolovska. Many readers will remember her “virtual” Toronto Summer Music recital a few months ago. This one is just as good!
Songs and Love and Sorrow is a new CD of music by Peter Lieberson played by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor Hannu Lintu. There are two works on the album. The first is The Six Realms; a cello symphony in six movements heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. The soloist here is Lieberson’s close friend Anssi Karttunen. Curiously this work was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project and premiered by them with Yo -Yo Ma conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste. For more information on the piece see the Composer’s Notes.
If you didn’t catch it live last night there’s a really lovely concert up on the Royal Opera House Youtube channel which should be available for a couple of weeks. Tony Pappano is at the piano with Louise Alder singing Britten, Strauss and Handel, Toby Spence with some Butterworth plus Gerald Finley with Finzi, Turnage and Britten. The boys finish off with the Pearl Fishers duet. Along the way, Morgen is sung by Louise and danced quite beautifully to choreography by Wayne McGregor by Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales. It’s weird, and even eerie, to see a concert from a large empty theatre but there we are. Highly recommended.
John Adams’ 2005 opera Doctor Atomic, about the development of the first atomic weapon, comes over very effectively on CD. I think this is because, in essence, it’s more oratorio than opera. There’s very little action in the stage version. So little in fact that Peter Sellars staged the original production rather the way he stages oratorios with lots of stylized movement by the chorus and the introduction of dancers. There are definite advantages to having the music without the distraction of the visuals.
The Art Song Foundation of Canada has launched a new free on-line magazine called, somewhat unsurprisingly, Art Song Canada. The first issue has three articles including a very interesting one by Gerald Finley. You can sign up for it and see the first issue here.
A listing I missed on the weekend… On November 25th at 2.30pm in the Jane Mallet Theatre, VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert are presenting Massenet’s Werther with Matt Chittick in the title role, Isabel Bayrakdarian as Charlotte and Brett Polegato as Albert. Narmina Afandiyeva directs from the piano.
This afternoon I saw Gerry Finley and Julius Drake in recital at Koerner Hall. In other words, two supreme exponents of the art of lieder at the top of their game in a hall with near perfect acoustics. They performed Beethoven and Schubert settings of Goethe texts, some Tchaikovsky and some Rachmaninoff, which gave Julius ample opportunity to show off. They finished up with settings of folky things by Copland, Barber, Respighi and Britten. The last was The Crocodile; a very silly and funny piece I hadn’t heard before. The encore was by Healey Willans and Gerry gave a very nice plug for the Canadian Art Song Project. Insert standard list of adjectival phrases describing top notch singing and accompaniment. My humble scribing is not worthy.
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.
This just in:
The fall season will open with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in the Carsen production as predicted yesterday. The (pleasant) surprise is that Gordon Bintner will sing the title role. Joyce El-Khoury sings Tatiana and Joseph Kaiser is Lensky. Johannes Debus conducts.
This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
The 1994 recording of Peter Maxwell Davies’ opera Resurrection, previously released on Collins has now been re-released on the Naxos label. It’s a hugely ambitious and somewhat confusing work; even harder to get to grips with on CD than it might be with visuals. It’s an anarchic parody of establishment figures and attitudes executed via a pastiche of multiple musical styles.
I’ve tried several times in the past to watch the DVD recording of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole and never made it past the second scene, which is revolting and, I still think, rather patronising. This time though I made it all the way through and I think, taken as a whole, this is a pretty impressive piece with a clever libretto and some real musical depth. It’s also, in the true and technical sense, a tragedy, and a very operatic one at that.