This 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.
I think I may have been missing out a bit with the Toronto Consort. I’ve been to the odd show that’s been identifiable as music theatre such as their excellent Play of Daniel but until I sat down with David Fallis and Laura Pudwell a few weeks ago I didn’t really have a clear sense of what they are about. Last night’s concert, Renaissance Splendours, at Trinity St. Paul’s, gave me a pretty good idea of what I’ve been missing and how it fits into my musical universe.
The Play of Daniel (Danielis ludus) is a 12th or 13th century Latin liturgical play from Beauvais in nothern France. It appears in the liturgy for January 1st, The Feast of the Circumcision, and appears to have been an attempt to channel the traditional post Christmas disorder into more acceptable channels. It was probably performed by the sub deacons of the Cathedral; young men in minor orders. Alex and David Fallis have run with this setting and tried to create a piece that would evoke the same sort of reactions from a 21st century audience as the original did for those who saw it in Beauvais. That’s a huge ask but, to my mind, they succeeded admirably.
Death in Venice is a curious opera. Based on a Thomas Mann novella, it concerns the aging writer Gustav von Aschenbch and his meditations on aging and art, as well as his obsession with a Polish boy encountered at his Venice hotel. Very little actually happens. Aschenbach has a series of encounters with quotidien characters such as the hotel manager and a hairdresser but mostly he observes and what we hear are a series of inner monologues. To work as theatre Aschenbach must capture our interest and our sympathy. If he doesn’t the piece can be incredibly boring and irritating.
Lunchtime today at the RBA saw members of the COC orchestra get together with soprano Sasha Djihanian for a concert of works by Handel and Albinoni. I realised that I really don’t listen to enough baroque chamber works. The first work on the program was Handel’s Trio Sonata No.2 in D Minor. It’s compact, playful and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I stupidly didn’t make a note of who played on what piece so I’ll just credit the ensemble at the end of the post. The other chamber work on the program was Albinoni’s Sonata à cinque in C major. This was fun too with lots of fugue elements and dance rhythms and some serious toe tapping by violist Keith Hamm.