Violanta is one of those works which seem oddly out of place, among other things. It’s a one act opera by the eighteen year old Erich Korngold which premiered in Munich and Vienna in 1916. It hardly needs saying that most eighteen year olds in Europe in 1916 were engaged otherwise than in composing rather overwrought operas about seduction and death in 15th century Venice but there you go.
There’s something very special about a song recital by a really good singer at the top of his/her game in a space conducive to song. The stars conjoined yesterday to yield a recital by Adrianne Pieczonka with pianist Rachel Andrist in the song friendly acoustic of Mazzoleni Hall, as part of the Mazzoleni Songmasters series.
The video recording, made at the Deutsche Oper in 2018, of Korngold’s rarely seen Das Wunder der Heliane is yet another lesson in holding off on making judgements on an opera or production until one has seen the whole thing. I still don’t think it’s a lost masterpiece but I’m feeling a lot less derisive than I was at the end of Act I.
At Roy Thomson Hall last night for the TSO playing Carl Orff’s extravaganza Carmina Burana. It was fun. I don’t think it’s a piece to over-intellectualize. Big orchestra, enormous choir (Toronto Mendelssohn Choir augmented by the Toronto Youth Choir plus the Toronto Children’s Chorus), bawdy Latin lyrics and so on. It’s big, brash and mostly quite loud though I think Donald Runnicles did a fine job of balancing orchestra and voices, especially when the soloists or the children were singing.
Today’s RBA lunchtime concert featured the three tenors; Kammersinger Michael Schade, currently appearing as Aegisth in the COC’s Elektra, Irish tenor Mick O’Schade and Scottish folksinger Michael McSchade. They were most ably supported by COC Concertmaster Marie Bérard and Sandra Horst at the piano. The concert was billed as a tribute to John McCormack and Fritz Kreisler but sad events had morphed it into also being a tribute to the CBC’s Neil Crory. I hope, and believe, that he would have appreciated the combination of whimsy and serious music making.
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert was my second chance in just over a week to see Erin Wall in recital, in a completely different program from the Mazzoleni gig. There were three sets. First up were Korngold’s Three Songs Op.22. I’m all for more German songs in recitals, especially someone other than the Schus, but I wasn’t really taken with these. They seem closer to the later film music in style than to, say Die tote Stadt. They got the operatic treatment from Erin which is probably not a bad thing here.
So the Toronto Summer Music Festival continued last night with a Shakespeare themed show called A Shakespeare Serenade. Curated and directed by Patrick Hansen of McGill it fell into two parts. Before the interval we got Shakespeare scenes acted out and then the equivalent scene from an operatic adaptation of the play. After the interval it was a mix of Sonnets and song settings in an overall staging that was perhaps riffing off The Decameron. Patrick Hansen and Michael Shannon alternated at the piano.
Calgary 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.
I guess it’s a good thing when one’s emotional and intellectual reactions to a program threaten to overwhelm one’s ability to listen analytically and evaluate. That’s what art is for isn’t it? Anyway that’s pretty much what happened to me today listening to a program called Songs of Love and War in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. The songs were all pieces more or less inspired by the catastrophes of the first half of the twentieth century; the wars, the rise of Nazi power, the occupation of France. These are all events that have many layers of meaning for me. I have studied them and the music and literature they generated for decades. I have known, often well, people who played roles in these events. I have deeply held views. You have been warned!
Kasper Holten shows his customary inventiveness in his production of Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt, recorded at Finnish National Opera in 2010. He places the whole opera inside Paul’s “Marie museum” with a chaotic, higgledy, piggledy model of the the city of Brugge as a back wall. He emphasises the dream elements of acts 2 and 3 through devices such as having the troupe of players and their boat emerge through Paul’s bed or assorted ecclesiastics popping up randomly in the “city model”. He also inserts a non-speaking Marie who is present throughout the piece, often to very interesting effect.