So on a grungy corner of Dundas and Ossington lies a grungy cellar dive; the Dakota Tavern. It’s not an obvious place to do opera though a mash up of opera and burlesque is more plausible. And so that’s what we got from the Opera Revue crew (Alexander Hajek, Danie Friesen and Claire Harris) and four burlesque dancers.
The music was appropriately chosen; some Phantom, Don Giovanni, Carmen, some Weill plus show tunes. Basically mine the repertory for stuff that is a bit edgy and plays with ideas of sexual consent or lack of it. Ironically the goody bag that was raffled off at the interval include, apparently, an Armadildo. I say ironically because I had spent my lunchtime with the cast and crew of Colleen Wagner’s new play Armadillos which is also (at least in part) about sexual consent or lack of it. Continue reading →
So here we go with the “preliminary evening” of the Deutsche Oper Berlin’s new production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen directed by Stefan Herheim. Das Rheingold opens before the music starts with a crowd of scruffily dressed people with suitcases; presumably refugees, filling a stage which is empty except for a grand piano. One of them starts to put on clown make up. We will soon see that this is Alberich. Another “refugee” sits at the piano and conjures up the first notes of the prelude from the pit. It takes a bit longer for us to realise that this is Wotan.
Interruption; the first concert of this year’s West End Micro Music Festival, happened last night at the season venue; Redeemer Lutheran Church on Bloor West. It was a clarinet quintet concert with a twist or two that was illuminated for me by a chat with clarinettist Brad Cherwin after the show.
Ruckus at the Revival from Opera Revue lived up to the billing. It was informal, it was fun, there was booze and the average age of the audience was about COC-30. The usual suspects were joined by Liliane Brooks, Ryan Downey and Dylan Wright (looking FABULOUS darlings) and some dude called Mike with an electric guitar. Plus your favourite Warner Bros characters.
It’s still pretty quiet but there are some things still going on:
August 16th to 20th, the National Ballet has free performances at Harbourfront incorporating a number of partners and an eclectic mix of dance styles. Details.
August 28th at pm in the Music Garden at Harbourfront Lawrence Wiliford and PhoeNX Ensemble are performing Alec Roth’s Songs in Time of War. This one is free and outdoors so “weather permitting”. Continue reading →
Back to the Emmet Ray yesterday for another show by Opera Revue. This time Dani Friesen and Claire Harris were joined by baritone Alexander Hajek which allowed for a three set show and quite a few duets. I was really struck by how much throwing in some duets makes the whole show seem more operatic. So what did we get? There was a lot of Mozart, notably duets from Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, plus solo arias from both operas. And, of course, there was Kurt Weill from Dani. There was at least one Neapolitan songs and several musical theatre numbers (Alex looks very fetching in cat ears) and a guest singing Schumann and probably other stuff I’ve forgotten. All in all, a suitably varied and satisfying selection.
Last night I went to my first evening, indoor performance since March 12th last year. And today I feel like I’ve been hit with a brick! Being out in the evening until getting home after a concert time is something my body has apparently forgotten how to do over the last year or so!
It seems like less on-line “opera” content is being produced as Europe prepares to return to theatres and Canada holds it breath. A few things are ongoing though and there’s fun new content from Natalya Gennadi and friends with HBD!Project April. More fine singing and stunning graphics.
There’s also Isolation Series: Wash, Dry, Reset from Opera Revue featuring the mordant wit and musical talents of Dani Friesen, Alexander Hajek and Claire Harris, plus dish detergent and popcorn. Both are on Youtube on channels Natalya Gennadi and Opera Revue respectively.
Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up is an 80 minute opera consisting of a prologue, six scenes and an epilogue. The libretto is by Royce Vavrek after a short story by Karen Russell. It was recorded after a production at Opera Omaha in 2018. One might perhaps expect an opera about homesteading in Nebraska to be a worthy piece of uplifting Americana but nothing could be further from the truth here. The Prologue, it’s true, is based on a 19th century popular song Uncle Sam’s Farm which appears to offer the American Dream to all comers but after that we get a surrealistic tale of drought, despair, drinking and death all based on the search for an elusive glass window that will allow the Zegner family to “prove up” and gain title to their land under the 1862 Homestead Act. What then, of the American Dream?
Ontario’s state of emergency seems to have slowed the production of on-line content to a trickle. The only new things I’ve seen recently are from the ever reliable Opera Revue and Alexander Hajek.
Opera Revue’s eighth isolation production features five pieces from Frank Horvat’s Music for Self Isolation; a set of thirty one short pieces for one or two musicians written last spring. The concert features the five pieces with a vocal part. I have to say I liked the texts; taken from various sources, more than the music. The music is sort of “singer sonwriterish”; simple, tonal, melodic, a bit repetitive. It’s fine of its type but it’s not my bag. Performances by various combos of sopranos Emily Ding and Dani Friesen, pianist Claire Harris and guitarist Michael McKenzie are very nice though and the recording; despite being done via Zoom, is perfectly acceptable. The music may not be entirely my thing but I’m delighted that someone is doing projects like this. You can find it on Opera Revue’s channel on Youtube.
Alex Hajek’s contribution is another intriguing Toronto based film this time featuring Der Doppelgänger from Scubert’s Schwanengesang. It’s beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to and, again, featurers Claire Harris on piano as well as Alex’ lovely baritone. This one’s on Youtube too. The channel is Alexander Hajek.