Last night the main stage of the Four Seasons Centre was the setting for celebrating the award of the twelth Glenn Gould prize to the great Jessye Norman. There were speeches, of course, celebrating Ms. Norman’s life as a singer rising to the top of the profession from unpromising origins as well as her lifetime of educational and philanthropic endeavours. They were decently short and to the point allowing us to get onto to the music, though not before we had heard Ms. Norman’s heartfelt and very touching acceptance speech.
The COC season continued last night with Atom Egoyan’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, first seen in January 2014. There are some changes from the previous outing but most of what I had to say about the production holds good still. This time there have been cuts. The show now runs as two ninety minute acts plus an interval and it feels tighter and doesn’t drag so much in the second act. In the process some of the heavy handed symbolism has been discarded; fewer pinned butterflies. I think the physical comedy may have ratcheted up just a touch but maybe that’s me misremembering. And the girls are brunettes, rather than redheads, but still well matched enough to look like sisters. Musically, I think it’s been lightened up somewhat. Bernard Labadie, something of a period specialist, conducts and Michael Shannon accompanies the recits on a fortepiano. But, still, fundamentally the same show.
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.
Joel Ivany’s much anticipated “semi-staged” version of Mozart’s Requiem K. 626 finally saw the light yesterday evening at Roy Thomson Hall. There were some interesting ideas but, ultimately, I didn’t think I came away with any new insight into the piece or life or death or anything really(*). I’ll go into the reasons but first I should describe how it was performed. The mass is prefaced by the slow movement from the Clarinet Quintet. The lights go down. The five players enter via the aisles in the audience lower level and take their seats (sadly to applause which we had been asked to refrain from). As the quintet is played (and it was very beautiful) the players are joined by the rest of the orchestra, the choirs, conductor and soloists enter through the audience and from the wings and deposited slips of paper (I think) on two benches at front of stage left and right. Names of the dead? Probably and that’s a nice touch though scarcely original. The quintet concludes. More unwanted applause. At this point the orchestra are seated , more or less conventionally, around the conductor with the choirs around them. There are lots of fancy chairs. The soloists are more or less in conventional position in front of the audience. Everyone, except the mezzo and the soprano, are in black. The very crowded stage is quite dimly lit in bluish tones. As the mass progresses, the soloists interact in various ways. The choirs gesture in rather obvious ways; the text says “king” so we pump our fists, the text talks of “writing” so we make scribbly gestures. At some point the soloists start to rearrange the pieces of paper with the names of the dead in a sort of game of Dearly Departed Patience. The soloists exit through the orchestra. The lights go down. The End.
Next week things get rather busy. There’s all the Hannigan shenanigans at UoT ; lecturing, masterclassing, concerting, walking on water, details here. There are a couple of lunchtime concerts in the RBA. Tuesday sees Gordon Bintner and Charles Sy perform Schumann’s Liederkreis and Britten’s Les Illuminations while on Thursday Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure appears with the members of the COC Orchestra Academy and their mentors.