I Will Fly Like A Bird

flylikeabirdI Will Fly Like a Bird is a chamber opera for two voices and six instruments composed by John Plant to a libretto by J. A. Wainwright.  It deals with the story  of Robert Dziekanski, a young Pole who was fatally tasered by police at Vancouver Airport in 2007.  It’s not dramatic or angry.  It’s more of an elegy recounting the hopes and aspirations of Robert and his mother who waits for him in Kamloops.  It’s often very beautiful and very, very sad,

The two characters; Robert and his mother, are sung by baritone and soprano with support from string quartet, piano and clarinet.  The music is tonal but quite modern in feel.  There are certainly no concessions to musical theatre but it does have a few “songs” notably a drinking song.  The music really feels apt for the story and is geared more to allowing the singers to convey the text than show off.

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Electric Messiah IV

Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah is back for a fourth outing, again under the musical direction of Adam Scime.  The formula is basically the same as previous years.

  • Take excerpts from Handel’s Messiah
  • Add some new music
  • Arrange for small chamber ensemble, electronics and turntables (Sarah Svendsen, analog and electric harpsichord; Joel Schwartz, electric guitar; Jeff McLeod, electric organl; SlowPitchSound, turntablist)
  • Take a quartet of singers from different vocal traditions (Jonathan MacArthur, Katherine Hill, Aviva Chernick and Alex Samaras)
  • Throw in a dancer (Lybido)
  • Have some of the text sung in a language relevant to the singer (Gaelic, Hebrew, Swedish this time)
  • Stage it at Drake Underground

This year in addition there was some interpolated music not directly derived from Messiah; to whit, a gospel piece for Samaras called “Personal Jesus” and a harpsichord solo.

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Ending with a beginning

David Fallis2

David Fallis

David Fallis’ last show after 28 years as Artistic Director of the Toronto Consort is, perhaps appropriately, the earliest opera in the repertoire; Monteverdi’s Orfeo.  The first performance of three was last night at Trinity St. Paul’s.  It’s a concert performance with surtitles and some interesting orchestration.  The expected strings and woodwinds are supplemented here by the sackbuts and cornettos of Montreal based La Rose des Vents as well as triple harp and an assortment of keyboards including, I think, two different organs. Continue reading

Resurrection

resurrectionThis review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.

The 1994 recording of Peter Maxwell Davies’ opera Resurrection, previously released on Collins has now been re-released on the Naxos label. It’s a hugely ambitious and somewhat confusing work; even harder to get to grips with on CD than it might be with visuals. It’s an anarchic parody of establishment figures and attitudes executed via a pastiche of multiple musical styles.

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Calgary Opera announces 2015/16 season

calgaryCalgary once again offers three main stage performances.  The season opens with Delibes’ Lakmé.  It’s a Tom Diamond production so probably not very Regie.  Aline Kutan, seen as Queen of the Night in Toronto not so long ago, sings the title role with Andrea Hill as her sidekick Mallika.  Lakmé’s paramour, the handsome British officer Frederic, is sung by Canadian opera’s current answer to Rudolph Valentino, Cam McPhail.  Gordon Gerrard conducts.  There are three performances on November 21st, 25th and 27th.

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East o’the Sun and West o’the Moon

Norbert Palej’s new piece East o’the Sun and West o’the Moon, commissioned by the Canadian Children’s Opera Company opened at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront last night.  It’s based on a Norwegian folk tale and tells the story of a girl, Rose, who does a deal with a magic white bear to feed her starving family.  The bear, of course, is really a prince who has been cursed by a witch.  Rose tricks the witch and marries the prince.  There are also trolls.  Lots of them.

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The Toronto Consort’s Giasone

giasoneCavalli’s Giasone is a bit of a peculiar piece,  It’s based on parts of the Jason/Medea/Golden Fleece story but it’s at heart a comedy.  It was wildly popular in the 17th century then pretty much lapsed into obscurity though there is one recording available on DVD.  It provides quite a lot of opportunity for sight gags and spectacle so one had to wonder how well it would play in a concert version as presented by the Toronto Consort last night.  Actually they did quite well with it but let’s take a step back to talk about the piece for a minute. Continue reading