Songs for Murdered Sisters is a new song cycle by Jake Heggie setting poems by Margaret Atwood. It came about as a result of an initiative by Canadian baritone Joshua Hopkins ,whose own sister was murdered by her ex in 2015, to raise awareness about violence against women. It’s now been recorded by Heggie and Hopkins and will be released by Pentatone in digital format tomorrow. It’s also available as a free video stream on the Houston Grand Opera website until March 21st. (ETA March 18th – extended to April 30th)
Hot on the heels of the RCM, the Toronto Symphony has announced its 2017/18 season, whih will be Peter Oundjian’s last as Music Director. There’s lots of sesquicentennial stuff of course but here’s a summary of the interesting vocal stuff (rock and roll and other children’s music omitted).
September 27,28 and 30, 2017: Brahm’s German Requiem with Erin Wall and Russell Braun.
October 19 and 20, 2017: Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Susan Platts and Michael Schade. This is billed as a Maureen Forrester commemoration.
November 9 and 11, 2017: Jeffrey Ryan’s Afghanistan:Requiem for a Generation with Measha Brueggergosman, Alysson McHardy, Colin Ainsworth and Brett Polegato.
December 16, 19, 20, 22 and 23, 2017: Handel’s Messiah with Karina Gauvin, Kristina Szabó, Frédéric Antoun and Joshua Hopkins.
April 26 and 28, 2018: A concert performance of Bernstein’s Candide with Tracy Dahl, Judith Forst, Nicholas Phan and Richard Suart.
June 2 and 3, 2018: A concert called Water Music with Leslie Ann Bradley singing Dvorak, Schubert and Mozart.
June 28 and 29, 2018: Peter Oundjian signs off with a Beethoven 9. Soloists tba.
Full details here.
Last night saw the first performance of this season’s run of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the COC. It’s a revival of the Diane Paulus 2011 production with Ashlie Corcoran as revival director. It has a “theatre within a theatre” overlay in Act 1; it’s supposed to be an aristocratic birthday party for Pamina where the guests perform the opera, which mysteriously disappears in Act 2 though it makes an odd reprise right at the end where all the characters appear to perform a country dance. Strip that element out and it’s a workmanlike Flute with nothing much to say but some pretty visuals. The animals are cute and the trials scene is rather well done. There is one notable change from 2011. Pamina’s lurid pink Disney princess outfit is gone, replaced by something Regencyish and far less jarring.
This year’s Soundstreams concert season was supposed to feature a performance by the Nelson Mandela University Choir. The current student and other social unrest in South Africa led to that tour being cancelled and left Soundstreams with the problem of organising a replacement line up in just four and a half weeks. I think they should be congratulated for sticking with the South African theme and producing the line up we saw last night subtitled A Tribute to Nelson Mandela’s Dream.
The COC’s new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville opened last night at the Four Season’s Centre. The production is by the Catalan collective Els Comediants, the same team who did La Cenerentola a few seasons back, with direction by Joan Font and designs by Joan Guillén. It’s a riot in a good way. It’s bold, colourful and very well choreographed. There are giant props; for example a huge guitar from which Almaviva sings his serenade and a giant pink piano which serves for all kinds of shenanigans. A lot of the “sung action” is doubled by actors in a sort of on stage projection cube. Scene changes are “on the fly” and the curtain only comes down for the interval and the end. Bold, clever, slick.
Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda featured in the MetHD series in January 2013 and has now been released on DVD. My review of the cinema broadcast is here. It’s always a bit different watching the DVD rather than the cinema version but in this case I think my somewhat different reaction has a lot to do with having recently seen various versions of the other Schiller/Donizetti Tudor queen operas, especially Stephen Lawless’ Roberto Devereux at the COC.
The Canadian Opera Company has just announced the 14/15 line up for the free lunchtime (mostly) concerts in the very beautiful Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. Highlights, from my point of view, include recitals by Jane Archibald, Krisztina Szabó, Lauren Segal, Colin Ainsworth, Joshua Hopkins, Robert Gleadow, Barbara Hannigan and Ekaterina Gubanova. There will also be ten concerts by the Ensemble Studio plus the Quilico competition. The Canadian Art Song Project will showcase Allyson McHardy in a new song cycle by Marjan Mozetich. There’s also a themed series of concerts to commemorate anniversaries of the First and Second World Wars, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. This will comprise six concerts drawn from the Vocal, Chamber Music and Piano Virtuoso programs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are vocal, chamber, piano, dance, jazz and world music programs to suit a very wide range of tastes. And it’s all free. Full details at http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/FreeConcertSeries.aspx
Today’s MetHD broadcast of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some really good performances. Joyce DiDonato in particular gave what may well have been a truly great performance and I would have loved to have seen it live. David McVicar’s production was much better than his Anna Bolena; visually interesting and with some strong dramatic ideas. However the good was pretty seriously undermined by another really awful piece of video directing by Gary Halvorson. I guessed it was him after about ten minutes. The incessant use of the nose cam and the incredibly irritating low level tracking shots were a dead give away. It was a big disappointment since the last two shows I saw, La Clemenza di Tito and Les Troyens, were filmed by Barbara Willis-Sweete and had given me some faint hope that the Met was capable of self analysis and improvement in this area. Hope that was, alas, sadly dashed today.