February always seems to be a busy month and the first half is shaping up that way. Things kick off on the 1st with the Sellars staging of di Lassus’ Lagrime di San Pietro at Koerner. On the 3rd Danika Lorèn is curating a concert at Heliconian for UoT Music. It’s called A Few Figs from Thistles, it’s at 7.30pm and it’s free. We are promised new songs by Danika based on poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Tekahionwake (E. Pauline Johnson) and Lorna Crozier.
Loose Tea Music Theatre’s Carmen #YesAllWomen has been in the works for three years. It went “live” this week with a production at Heliconian Hall. It’s an intriguing show. Dramatically and musically it’s recognisably based on Bizet’s Carmen but only just. In Alaina Viau and Monica Pearce’s version the principal male character is one John Anderson, an Afghanistan vet with PTSD, his rival for Carmen is a rapper, Maximillian aka Hot God, and Michaela is Anderson’s estranged wife.
The latest concert in the Confluence series featured Marion Newman and friends addressing the question “What is Indigenous classical music?” through a carefully curated programme of works; all of which featured words by Indigenous women. We began with Marion singing Barbara Kroall’s Zasakwaa (There is a Heavy Frost) with words in Odawa describing the earth going to sleep for the winter with flute accompaniment by Stephen Tam. It was followed by Rebecca Cuddy singing three of the Five Songs on Poems by Marilyn Dumont by Ian Cusson. These are really fine settings of interesting, pithy, angry texts that have a wicked humour to them. I particularly like Letter to Sir John A. Macdonald which I’ve written about before.
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.
We went to a recital of French and Mexican vocal music at Heliconian Hall yeaterday. It was given by soprano Renée Bouthot and pianist Ana Cervantes. Far the most interesting part sof the programme were the Mexican pieces. Federico Ibarra’s 1988 setting of Tres Canciones by Lorca was really fine. The three pieces were quite varied. Canción has a complex piano part, an interesting vocal line and quite playful interaction between the two. By no means always to be found in modern art song. Canción de Cuna has a less interesting, kind of scoopy vocal line but a really virtuoso piano part while the final Canción de la muerte pequeña blends a wildly percussive piano part with dance rhythms in the vocal line. All three texts are really interesting too.
What do you get when you take nine multi-talented musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds and give them a Purcell toy box to play in? You get the latest concert in the Confluence series; ‘Tis Nature’s Voice: Henry Purcell Reimagined. It’s an amazingly fun evening that completely blows the cobwebs off the often stuffy Toronto baroque music scene. I can’t do a number by number account because I completely lost track. I was having way too much fun.
Your Daughter Fanny is a 45 minute long chamber opera with music by Alice Ho and libretto by Lisa Moore based on letters written by WW1 Newfoundland VAD nurse Frances Cluett (which can also be found in book form). It was performed yesterday at Heliconian Hall by soprano Caroline Schiller with Duo Concertante, Nancy Dahn (violin) and Timothy Steeves (piano).
I really liked the music. It was the first time I’ve heard a piece by Alice Ho that didn’t include traditional Chinese elements and it was stylistically interesting; rich textured, sometimes astringent, sometimes very lyrical with a very decent, singable vocal line.