A brace of baritones

Last night Thomas Hampson, his son in law Luca Pisaroni and pianist Vlad Intifca appeared at Koerner Hall.  It was a curious program.  The first half was made up of opera arias and excerpts.  There was a sequence of Conte/Figaro and Leporello/Don G numbers.  They were, of course, very well sung.  Both singers are noted exponents of these roles but I really didn’t see the point.  They were pieces I’m sure pretty much every audience member has seen with orchestra, on stage, multiple times.  With piano accompaniment it all seemed a bit pointless.  There followed two longish scenes; the Riccardo/Giorgio confrontation from I Puritani and the scene from Don Carlo where Posa pleads with the king for a change in policy in the Netherlands.  These worked better; perhaps because they are less familiar but more likely the fact that each featured Pisaroni in a genuine bass role.  This allowed for more variation of timbre and colour than the Mozart pieces.

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April shows

butterfly-square… plus a late March addition…

March 29th and 30th Tapestry are doing the Songbook thing again.  This is the show where an established singer; Jacqueline Woodley this time, works with emerging artists and a pianist (Andrea Grant) plus director Michael Mori to create a show based on Tapestry’s back catalogue.  There are three shows at the Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery; Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 4pm and again at 8pm.

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Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian

I finally got to see Rufus Wainwright’s new opera Hadrian, to a libretto by Daniel Macivor, at the Four Seasons Centre last night.  There’s been a lot of hype around it and I was interested; the few bits of music from it that I had heard intrigued me but I’m no fan of his earlier work Prima Donna.  One thing was certain.  The piece does not lack ambition. There are four acts totalling something like 160 minutes.  There’s a large cast, a large orchestra, a large chorus and an epic storyline.  It’s clearly an attempt to produce a “grand opera” for our times.  Does it succeed?

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The back half of October

marionandbeastComing up later this month…

On October 14th at 7.30pm in the MacMillan Theatre, the UoT Symphony, UoT Opera and the MacMillan singers are joining forces for a programme of opera ensemble numbers.

October 20th at 8pm in the Ernest Balmer Studio sees the first show in the new Confluence series; Sovereignty Voiced.  Actor Cole Alvis, mezzo soprano Marion Newman, composer/pianist Ian Cusson, poet/filmmaker Armand Garnet Ruffo and singer/songwiter Aqua Nibii Waawaaskone and others share poems, songs and stories in an intimate cabaret.

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Arabella with Fleming and Hampson

Thomas Hampson and Renée Fleming teamed up for Strauss’ Arabella at the 2014 Salzburg Osterfestspiel.  The production is directed by Florentine Klepper and it’s set late 19th/early 20th century and is conventional in many ways though there are a few interesting touches.  There may be more than a few but video director Brian Large focusses quite relentlessly on the singers 99% of the time so it’s hard to tell.  I noticed a few things.  The hotel set in Act 1 is multi-room but it’s very rare that we see other than the room the principal action is in so who knows what might have been going on.  There’s a use of body doubles during the Act 2 duet to create a sort of “portrait” of Mandryka and Arabella that broods over the stage for the rest of the act.  The fortune teller reappears with the “trouble” card during the “key” scene.  The whole Fiakermilli episode is difficult to interpret because the video gives such a fragmentary view of it.  There’s certainly a couple of suggestive giant dolls.  Otherwise this scene just comes off as pretty crude and lame.  I suspect that there may be much going on here that isn’t on the video.  This all tends to reinforce the weaknesses of the second half of Act 2 and the start of Act 3 which certainly are not Strauss and von Hofmannsthal’s best work.

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Renée and her frocks

John Cox’s production of Massenet’s Thaïs at the Metropolitan Opera is probably most remembered for the rather extraordinary collection of Christian Lacroix frocks that Met perennial Renée Fleming gets to wear.  It’s rather more than that.  In fact it’s a pretty good example of what the Met does best.  It’s sumptuous and spectacular and has a pretty much ideal cast which, together, go a long way toward making this curious piece rather enjoyable.

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