Mélodies Passagères is a new CD from Montreal based duo soprano Marianne Lambert and pianist Julien LeBlanc. Toronto folks may remember the latter as the music director/pianist for Against the Grain’s Pelléas et Mélisande a few years ago. The selection of songs; by Barber, Bizet, Delage, Delibes, Granados, Lavallée, Massenet and Paladihle, is intended to evoke escaping, journeying, dreaming and sensuality and it does that pretty well. Most of the pieces are not particularly well known though there are a few chestnuts like Bizet’s Les adieux de l’hôtesse Arabe and Délibes’ Les filles de Cadix.
Yesterday’s lunchtime recital in the RBA was given by soprano, Vanessa Vasquez and pianist Miloš Repický. It was a well constructed programme though there were few surprises. The first set was three Strauss standards; Ständchen, Breit’ übermein Haupt and Befreit; the last dedicated to Vanessa’s teacher who died recently. They were all well sung with appropriate emotional emphasis and, best of all, both performers appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Clémentine Margaine prowled the RBA like an exotic and rather dangerous feline. A total stage animal, she created a stunning series of female personae, from the virginal to the very much not, to bring to life a well curated selection of Spanish and French pieces. She started with the 7 Canciones populares Españoles of de Falla which set the tone as they communicate a wide variety moods and temperaments in a very short space of time. Each little song was fully invested with its own drama. And her eyes. Incredible! Granados’ La maja dolorosa followed. By this point I was really beginning to understand why Ms. Margaine is so sought after. It’s a big, dark, sexy voice. I would probably have realised the sheer size of the voice more on Wednesday if I hadn’t been comparing her to the absolutely enormous sound of Anita Rashvelishvili. It’s a wonderfully expressive instrument perhaps lacking a really strong upward extension but, overall, lovely to listen to.
Last night Opera Five staged a double bill of two one act Spanish operas from the first quarter of the twentieth century. The first was de Falla’s El retablo de maese Pedro. This was written as a puppet opera blending a chivalric tale about the days of Charlemagne with an intervention by an increasingly angry Don Quixote. Structurally it’s an interesting piece with the story being told to a quite simple vocal line by the soprano (Rachel Krehm) playing the puppet master’s boy with interruptions by her boss (Conrad Siebert) and, increasingly, by the one man audience, Don Quixote (Giovanni Spanu). In between the action is acted out by shadow puppets accompanied by a a rather lush “soundtrack”. Finally Don Quixote loses patience with the whole thing and tears down the set before going on a rant about the virtues of knights errant and himself in particular. Staged as a sort of children;s game by director Aria Umezawa, it played very well to this company’s strengths. It was well sung, clever, funny, irreverent and enormously enjoyable. Music director Maika’i Nash once again did that thing I find incredible,m impersonating a whole orchestra on piano, this time with some help from Conrad Siebert on various percussion instruments.
I’m having a hard time keeping up with everything that’s going on in the Toronto opera scene. The latest thing to hit my inbox is a new show from Opera Five. These are the “food and opera” guys and this time it’s tapas and sangria and Spanish opera. They are doing two pieces; de Falla’s El Retablo de maese Pedro, which features puppets, and Granados’ Goyescas, which is based on paintings by Goya. I think the only “puppet opera” I’ve seen before was the mash up of Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schaulspieldirektor that Salzburg did in 2006 so this should be fun.
The show is at Gallery 345 which is at 345 Sorauren and there are three performances on April 29th, May 1st and May 2nd. Tickets are available online at http://o5besame.eventbrite.ca or at the door (cash only).