I’m late to the party on this one. I had set aside time on Sunday to watch Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule and Miriam Khalil’s recital from Koerner Hall (one of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series) when first broadcast. For whatever reason I couldn’t get it to mirror onto the big screen in a watchable way so I ended up watching it on my laptop yesterday. So it goes.
I’m a big fan of taking classic song cycles and giving them a treatment other than the very formal Liederabend approach; fond as I am of that! So I was intrigued to see what Philippe Sly and Le Chimera Project would make of Schubert’s Winterreise.
Acquanetta; music by Michael Gordon, libretto by Deborah Artman, is a one act chamber opera in ten scenes lasting around 70 minutes. It’s a sort of homage to the B movie horror genre and specifically riffs off the 1943 film Captive Wild Woman in which a mad scientist turns an ape into a sultry temptress. The opera got its North American premier in Brooklyn in January 2018 and was reviewed by Patrick Dillon in Opera Canada Volume LVIII No. 4. Subsequently a CD version was recorded in the studio.
Hook Up is a 95 minute musical theatre piece from composer Chris Thornborrow and librettist Julie Tepperman. It’s been a while coming. I saw the first inklings of it at Tapestry Briefs in September 2013. That morphed into Selfieseen in workshop in October 2015. Now it’s morphed again. The basic characters are still there and some of the plot elements but the focus has shifted from cyber-bullying to sexual consent and the context from high school to first year university.
The New American Art Song is a CD of, unsurprisingly, American art songs. Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch is accompanied by the composers in four contrasting sets. The first set is Quiet Lives by Ricky Ian Gordon; eight songs setting texts by various poets. The music is tonal with occasional elements of minimalism but overall a bit of a retro “piano lounge” feel that didn’t particularly excite me.
Second up were two songs, Of Gods and Cats, by Jake Heggie to texts by Gavin Geoffrey Gillard. These are sly, witty, jazzy and much more contemporary sounding. Much more musically inventive too. It’s easy to see why Heggie is in the upper tier of contemporary American composers. The disc also has a bonus Heggie song; a setting of Browning’s Grow Old Along With Me, that I really liked.