Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured the vocalist Rebanks fellows from the Glenn Gould School. There was some very classy and very powerful singing. We heard Hannah Crawford, fresh off her second place at Centre Stage, sing a couple of arias; “Pleurez, plearez mes yeux” from Masenet’s Le Cid and “Come Scoglio” from Cosí. There was some very considerable power on display here as well as accuracy and emotion. Definitely one to watch.
Last night, as part of the Ashkenaz Festival, we got to see Henekh Kon’s Bas-Sheve. It’s the only known pre Holocaust Yiddish opera and there’s quite a saga involved in it getting to a staging. The work dates to 1924, when it premiered in Warsaw then disappeared. In 2017 Dr. Diana Matut unearthed an incomplete piano score version which was completed and orchestrated by librettist Michael Wex and composer Joshua Horowitz to create an hour long piece that premiered in August 2019 as part of the Yiddish Summer Weimar festival.
The third instalment of the Likht Ensemble’s Shoah Songbook project features music from Poland; specifically from the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau. It’s available now on the Harold Green Jewish Theatre channel on Youtube. Here’s the link. There’s about 12 minutes of useful introductory material and 25 minutes of music.
Appropriately timed for Holocaust Remembrance Day, soprano Jaclyn Grossman and pianist Nate Ben-Horin in conjunction with the Harold Green Jewish Theatre presented a concert of music (mainly) from the Vilna and Kovno ghettoes in Lithuania. Their earlier concert, which I wasn’t aware of, featured fairly well known material from Terezin but most of this program was unfamiliar, having largely survived by chance. Some of it only exists as a melody line and had to be recreated by Ben-Horin.
The concert for the eleven singers taking part in this year’s IRCPA Encounter programme was broadcast on 96.3 FM on Friday evening. It was also webcast on Youtube. Here’s the link. Anyway here’s a quick rundown on the performances.
The 2021 IRCPA Encounter / Singing Stars Participants Front row, from left: Camila Montefusco, Hillary Tufford, Ana Toumine, Ryan McDonald, Ross Mortimer Back row, from left: Ryan Nauta, Jaclyn Grossman, Jocelyn Fralick, Melissa Danis, Rachel Miller Not shown Nicholas Gryniewski
Last night was the last performance at Heliconian Hall of Loose Tea Music Theatre’s double bill of Anne Frank operas. The first half of the show centred on Grigori Frid’s monodrama for soprano and chamber ensemble (given here in piano score) The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s a work in 21 scenes of which 15 were performed last night. For a Soviet work of the 1970s it’s surprisingly modern in style with some interesting music for the piano. The vocal part though is pretty unsympathetic and although Gillian Grossman managed it pretty well a lot of it lies too high for comfort or even comprehension.
Wednesday evening saw the last Whose Opera is it Anyway? of the year in the new digs at Bad Dog Comedy Club. Last month’s line up of singers; Rachel Krehm, Michael York, Gillian Grossman and Amanda Kogan, were joined by Adanya Dunn and an elf. Natasha Fransblow was at the keyboard again. Greg Finney; the thinking man’s Don Cherry, MC’d. The format was as ever; a line up of improv games with audience input. Highlights included the Three Minute Messiah, Adanya giving her mum a dildo and the deep, dark depths of Keith Lam’s Instagram account. And beer. And Greg’s suit.
The news is that LooseTEA now has a regular slot for WOIIA. In the new year you will be able to catch them at Bad Dog on the third Sunday of the month at 9.30pm. It’s a better venue than the old place and it’s a fun way to spend an hour and a half or so.
Whose opera is it anyways?! is a comedy-improv-opera show from LooseTEA Theatre’s Alaina Viau. Last night saw the second in what is being projected as a monthly series at the Comedy Bar on Bloor West. So how does it work? The “games” and associated players are decided in advance but each usually requires some kind of audience input such as a place or a mood or even the messages on someone’s phone. The team then act out and sing a sketch on the prescribed lines. Natasha Fransblow provided accompaniment on keyboards, though how much of that was planned and how much improvised I couldn’t tell. In between numbers Jonathan McArthur MC’d accompanied by really obnoxiously loud pop music (not helped by the speaker basically being in my left ear).
Century Song is a 50 minute show combining music, movement and video projections as it takes us on an aesthetic journey through the last hundred years. At the heart of the show is soprano Neema Bickersteth who does the singing and dancing. The singing consists of vocalises by Rachmaninoff, Messiaen, Cage, Aperghis and finally, a piece composed for the show by Reza Jacobs. The songs are accompanied Gregory Oh on piano and Ben Grossman on percussion and computer. The musical interludes are structured improvisations originally devised by Reza Jacobs, Gregory Oh and Debashis Sinha. The dance elements are choreographed by Kate Alton and use a very wide kinetic vocabulary. Bickersteth’s constantly changing costumes further illustrate the time travel element of the narrative.