Is Iago a nihilist?

I managed to catch the fourth performance of the COC’s current run of Verdi’s Otello last night.  It’s a David Alden production that first aired at ENO and it’s a very dark take on an already dark story.  It’s set maybe circa 1900 and the sets are stark but the lighting is dramatic with lots of contrasts and giant moving shadows.  The overall Zeitgeist seems to be of a society that has seen too much war; a sort of collective PTSD.  This comes over in a number of ways.  The scenes that usually lighten things up a bit; the victory celebrations in Act 1, the children and flowers in Act 2, don’t here.  In fact they are downright creepy.  There’s also a female dancer, used rather as Christopher Alden used Monterone’s daughter in Rigoletto, who clearly doesn’t expect good things from returning soldiers.

18-19-06-MC-D-0086

Continue reading

Opera for Toronto

Last night at the COC there was a special performance of Puccini’s La Bohème.  The cast was made up, for the most part, of current and past Ensemble Studio members and tickets had been made available free to a variety of community groups.  It was billed as “Opera for Toronto”.  There had also been a small number of tickets available on line on a first come basis and, by the looks of things , a fair number of comps for the cast.

LBES6

Afarin Mansouri giving an introductory talk in Farsi – Credit: Gaetz Photography

Continue reading

Much to like

There’s much to like in this year’s unfussy TSO Messiah.  It’s not bloated.  For most of the piece conductor Johannes Debus deploys around thirty strings, chamber organ, harpsichord, oboes and bassoon.  Trumpets and timpani are added for the grand moments later in the piece.  He even manages to get quite a delicate sound out of the largish (100+) Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.  The delicacy is a recurrent thread.  That and a really bouncy sense of rhythm.  One could dance to Debus’ Handel.

Allyson McHardy, Claire De Sévigné (@Jag Gundu)

Continue reading

Bound 2.0

The second of three projected iterations of Against the Grain Theatre’s Bound opened last night at The Great Hall.  Version one was staged but in piano score.  Last night’s version was sung off music stands but with a chamber ensemble and major changes to the music.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the production version, due this time next year shapes up.

bound1

Andrew Haji, Miriam Khalil, Topher Mokrzewski, Justin Welsh, David Trudgen

Continue reading

Farewell to Oundjian

Wouldn’t that make a really good title for a pipe tune?  But that aside Peter Oundjian is marking the end of his long run as Music Director of the TSO with a series of three Beethoven 9ths with Kirsten MacKinnon, Lauren Segal, Andrew Haji, Tyler Duncan and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir joining the TSO.  I caught the second yesterday evening.  It’s always a bit odd listening to a piece one has been familiar with for years.  Will I hear or learn something new tonight?  Will this performance probe the nature of the piece like I have never heard it probed?  The Tafelmusik performance and recording of this piece did just that.  I felt I was hearing it for the very first time.  Alas, the only new thought I had last night was about how repetitive certain sections are.  So there it was, an OK run through but no more.  The soloists were fine, though perhaps possessing a weight of voice better suited to Tafelmusik at Koerner than the TSO in full cry in the unforgiving sonic deserts of Roy Thomson.  I did think Ms. MacKinnon and the sopranos of the choir managed the fiendishly high setting of their part (probably a good job that Beethoven didn’t have to listen to complaints from his sopranos) very well.  Nice work from the piccolo accompanying them too.  Otherwise it was a bit unremarkable though that didn’t stop the obligatory idolatry from the RTH audience.  Heaven knows what would happen if they ever heard a truly great performance…

MacKinnon, Segal, Haji, Duncan, Peter Oundjian (@Nick Wons)

Photo credit: Nick Wons

The aria finals

And so the final act.  First on stage was Emily D’Angelo; the only lady left in the competition.  It was an accomplished and varied set.  She started with a characterful and technically proficient Una voce poco fa followed by an appropriately lyrical Must the winter come so soon?  Coeur sans amour from the Massenet Cendrillon showed off excellent French before a suitably dramatic rendering of the Komponist’s aria from Ariadne.  Pretty much all the mezzo bases covered there and covered very well.

GrandFinale-2

Continue reading

The aria competition heats up

So I guess I wasn’t that impressed with the first session in the aria competition; too much loud, technically correct, but dull singing.  Things were much better in the evening though.  First up was Russian mezzo Alexandra Yangel.  She was very personable and fun to watch but a bit wayward vocally.  Nobles seigneurs, Salut! from Les Huguenots was dramatic and lyrical in places but her upper register gets quite squally.  This was even more noticeable in the aria from La Cenerentola that followed.  I liked the passion and the vocal acting ability in her Smanie, implacabili though.

QuarterFinalsAria(III)-2

Continue reading