The death of Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was announced a couple of hours ago. It’s no secret that he had been suffering from brain cancer for some time but, still, 55 is far too young. I’ll remember him for one of the oddest recitals I’ve ever been to. Not that his performance was odd, rather it was excellent, but because his “fan club”, which appeared to be made up of Russian women of a certain age, were the noisiest people I have ever seen in Koerner Hall, on or off stage.
There’s a lot on today. Handel’s Ariodante opens at the COC at 2.30pm. There’s also a concert featuring Russell Braun with the Amici Ensemble at 3pm in the Mazzoleni Concert Hall at the Conservatory. The Elmer Iseler Singers and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir also have concerts. Thursday sees the opening of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier with Wallis Giunta and Chris Enns as the lovers which promises both eye and ear candy. That’s at the Elgin at 7.30pm. Then on Saturday there’s Singing Stars of Tomorrow, the result of a Sondra Radvanovsky intensive, at the Alliance Française at 7.30 pm. The line up is Valerie Belanger,soprano; Stephanie De Ciantis, soprano; Natalya Gennadi, soprano; Beth Hagerman, soprano; Jessica Scarlato, soprano; Sara Schabas, soprano; Caitlin Wood, soprano; Danielle MacMillan, mezzo-soprano; Marjorie Maltais, mezzo-soprano; Asitha Tennekoon, tenor. Quite a mix, from people I’ve never heard of to one who has already made her COC debut.
In other news, the COC and Show One Productions have announced a gala concert to take place at the Four Seasons Centre on April 25th next year. It’s billed (modestly) as Trio Magnifico: The Ultimate Opera Gala and the big draw is the Canadian debut of Anna Netrebko. She will appear with her husband tenor Yusif Eyazov and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. They will be accompanied by the COC Orchestra conducted by Jader Bignamini. Given that Dima alone turned Koerner Hall into a frenzy of screaming Russian grannies, this could get interesting.
A packed out Koerner Hall just saw something half way between an art song recital and a revivalist meeting. To say that Mr. Hvorostovsky has a fan club would be a gross understatement. He was greeted by cheers, every song got prolonged applause (alas for those of us who prefer some continuity in a set), there were more flowers than at Princess Di’s funeral and about the only thing missing was that, mercifully, no underwear got thrown on stage. Oh, and, despite the requests to the contrary, the whole show was “artfully” lit by the constant flashes from phone cameras. He also sang some songs. In fact it was a nicely chosen mixture of Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Tchaikovsky and Strauss. Full details are here.
The program for Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s February 21 recital at Koerner Hall has been released. It is:
Glinka: To Molly (Do not demand songs from a singer), (text: Kukolnik) It’s Pleasant to Be with You (text: N.Ryndin) Say Not That It Grieves the Heart (text: N. Pavlov) Doubt (text: Kukolnik) Bolero (text: Kukolnik)
The season announcements keep on coming. There will be Koerner Hall recitals for both Sondra Radvanovsky and the, hopefully fully recovered, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Sondra appears on December 4th with pianist Anthony Manoli in a program of operatic arias and art songs. Dmitri is scheduled for Sunday 21st February next year with Ivari Ilya at the piano. Tickets in the usual Koerner Hall places.
The dates have been now been announced for MY Opera’s production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. It’s scheduled for April 29th to May 1st next year in the Aki Studio at the Daniels Spectrum in Regent’s Park.
And, finally, Against the Grain Theatre are remounting their choreographed Messiah. It was a blast the first time round, especially Geoff Sirett’s sheep impersonation. This time it’s being staged at Harbourfront Centre Theatre on Dec. 16th, 17th and 18th at 8pm and Dec. 19th at 2pm. The solists will be Miriam Khalil, Andrea Ludwig, Owen McCausland and Stephen Hegedus. Joel Ivany directs with choreography by Jenn Nicholls. This time there will be an 18 piece orchestra and 16 member choir with Topher Mokrzewski conducting. Tickets here. This will probably sell out fairly quickly.
Verdi’s Il Trovatore really is a peculiar piece. It’s a bit of a musical hybrid with huge, rousing choruses interspersed with bel canto arias which I suppose is fairly typical of middle period Verdi. It has a truly silly plot (perhaps based on Blackadder’s lost novel) with gypsies, dead babies and improbable coincidences galore. It’s also notoriously hard to cast with five very demanding roles combining a need for flawless bel canto technique with lots of power. David McVicar’s production at the Metropolitan Opera was broadcast in HD in April 2011 and subsequently released on Blu-ray and DVD. I saw the HD broadcast and enjoyed it enough to buy the Blu-ray.
I despair. I really do. Yesterday’s MetHD broadcast of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera had so much going for it. The singing was brilliant and David Alden’s production seemed to have plenty of interesting ideas. I say “seemed” because we only got the briefest of brief glimpses of it in between the succession of close ups served up by video director Matthew Diamond. On the odd occasions we got to see more than a head or a body it was usually from a weird angle. It’s particularly irritating because the two elements of the production that seemed to be most important were the ones most ruthlessly undermined. Alden’s movement of chorus, supers and dancers and the contrast between what they do and what the principals do seems to be important but who knows? Similarly his use of contrasting spaces, especially in Act 3, is obviously important but when the viewer gets only a couple of seconds to establish the context before the camera moves in and loses it the effect is fatally weakened.
One of the early Metropolitan Opera Live in HD broadcasts was a 2007 showing of Robert Carsen’s 1997 production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming. It was subsequently released on DVD and Blu-ray by Decca and remains one of the most successful disk releases spawned by the broadcasts.