Toronto City Opera’s latest show, at the Al Green Theatre, is Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann. It’s a pretty good choice for TCO since, even with cuts, there’s plenty of fun stuff for the chorus to do and Jessica Derventzis’ production keeps a good chunk of them on stage pretty much throughout. The production concept is straightforward. It gets a late 19th century setting and the three acts are framed as presenting Hoffmann’s story to the group of drunken students. It’s unfussy and works.
The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.
There were three reGENERATION concerts in Walter Hall yesterday at 1pm, 4pm and 7.30pm. It made for a long but interesting day. As last year, each concert was a mix of vocal and chamber music. The vocal program was not announced in advance so I’m working from notes and there could be the odd error. Pleasingly, there were surtitles for the songs. This is a huge improvement on a sheet of tiny print to be read in the dark! Continue reading →
Yesterday afternoon I attended the latest concert in the extremely well curated Mazzoleni Songmasters series at the Royal Conservatory of Music. This one featured soprano Joyce El Khoury and mezzo Beste Kalender in a program of French songs influenced by orientalism with some genuine Lebanese and Turkish songs thrown in for fun. Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard were at the piano and, besides accompanying, gave us a couple of short pieces for four hands.
Tan Dun’s Water Passion After St. Matthew, given last night by Soundstreams at Trinity St. Paul’s is very Tan Dun. The work is in nine movements and scored for chorus, soprano and bass-baritone soloists, violin, cello, electronics and lots of percussion. And bowls of water and rocks. The texts broadly follow the Passion story finishing with a final Resurrection movement in which water is the symbol of rebirth, recycling and spiritual completeness. There are also ritual elements. Bowls of water laid out in a cruciform pattern are lit from beneath. The musicians change position and the players, especially the percussionists, perform hieratic gestures with the water bowls and their contents. It also involves a complex and dramatic lighting plot.
Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert in Mazzoleni Hall was an all Richard Strauss program featuring an array of guests. First up was the Duett Concertino where regulats Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet), David Hetherington (cello) and Serouj Kradjian (piano) were joined by violinists Timothy Ying and Jennifer Murphy, violist Keith Hamm, Theodore Chan on bass and Michael Sweeney on bassoon. It’s a program piece in which the clarinet represents a princess and the bassoon, a bear, who eventually, of course, transforms into a handsome prince. There are lots of dance rhythms from the strings and some sly quotations from Der Rosenkavalier along the way. It’s fun and it was very well played. I almost wonder if it was too smooth. The bear certainly seemed very suave and his transformation was not terribly abrupt. Still, bear!
Last night the UoT’s early Music program presented Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in the chapel at Trinity College. It was a bit of a strange experience. The work was semi-staged with dancers doubling Dido and Aeneas and a few extra as “chorus dancers”. With a twelve person chorus and all the soloists plus the small band this made for a lot of people in the space. Trinity College Chapel is long, narrow and high with traditional pew seating and a minimally raised platform for the altar. All of which meant that only the first few rows and , maybe, people on the aisle had much of a view of anything.
Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert featured four works transcribed for different combinations of instruments than the composer originally intended. First up was Berg’s Adagio for violin, clarinet and piano. This is from the Kammerkonzert originally scored for violin, piano and thirteen assorted wind instruments. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t get played often in that arrangement. It’s pretty typical second Vienna school; twelve tone but quite accessible and very pleasant to listen to. It was expertly played by Serouj Kradjian (piano), David Hetherington (cello) and Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet).
Yesterday I attended the final concert of the 2011/12 season of the Amici Ensemble at the Glenn Gould Studio courtesy of Executive Director Lizzie Bowman.
It was my first time at the Glenn Gould and I was impressed by the space. It’s pretty much ideal for chamber music. They also have Glenn Gould’s childhood piano on display which is another addition to Toronto’s collection of secular relics. There is a book or thesis at least in that topic.
The concert was a varied mix of pieces from the first third of the 20th century. That’s pretty much a sweet spot for me as it’s pretty much where I discovered classical music. My first classical LP purchase was of the Janáček string quartets. Some of the music I was very familiar with. Some was quite unknown to me. Also, the ensemble was different for each piece. It made for an interesting afternoon. Continue reading →