Continuing the contemporary CanCon theme I’ve been listening to Bestiaries; a CD of music by Bekah Simms. I first heard her music at the TSO in June and liked it enough to want to explore further. There are three pieces on the CD; each a little over ten minutes long. The first, Foreverdark, is a 2018 piece for solo cello, chamber orchestra and live electronics. It’s inspired by the compose and cellist Amahl Arulanandam shared love for metal and quotes from iconic metal albums. I’m not a metal fan but I am intrigued to hear younger composers using ideas drawn from more popular genres. Think Missy Mazzoli and electronic dance music. It’s no different really from Ralph Vaughan Williams using folk songs or Michael Tippett aking ideas from blues music. The result here is heavy textured, weird and chaotic with Arulanandam using all parts of the cello and acoustic instruments of the orchestra (the Cryptid Ensemble conducted by Brian Current) made to sound like electric, amplified ones with all the effects one usually gets from electronic manipulation generated acoustically. Continue reading
Our Song d’Hiver is Tapestry Opera’s latest on-line offering. It’s a little over an hour long and features Mireille Asselin exploring French-English bilingualism and biculturalism as it manifests itself from l’Acadie to the Ottawa valley with a bit of Provence thrown in for good measure. It’s very cleverly done and the production values are high. In places it’s very funny and in others impossibly sad. There are lovely performances by Mimi and pianist Frédéric and guest appearances from guitarists Maxim and Gervais Cormier, poet Élise Gauthier and composers Ian Cusson and Marie-Claire Saindon.
Sirènes is an album of pieces by Montreal composer Ana Sokolović. The first pice, which gives the album its title, is written for six unaccompanied female voices. It’s performed here by the vocal ensemble of Queen of Puddings Music Theatre conducted by Dáirine Ní Mheadhra. The six ladies in question are Danika Lorèn, Shannon Mercer, Magali Simard-Galdès, Caitlin Wood, Andrea Ludwig, and Krisztina Szabó. It’s an interesting piece and very Sokolović. The text is bent and twisted into sound fragments which are “sung” using an array of extended vocal techniques. The overall effect is of a shimmering, fluttery and quite absorbing sound world.
Hockey Noir; music by André Ristic, words by graphic novelist Cecil Castellucci, is a piece presented by Montreal based ECM+ and brought to Toronto in collaboration with Continuum and The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It’s described as a “graphic opera” which I suppose is OK as far as it goes. I saw it as a theatre piece incorporating, and sometimes parodying, opera, musical theatre, film noir, the graphic novel and animation. It’s set in the 1950s and riffs off the old tropes of Montreal/Toronto hockey rivalry and the entanglement of local government and organised crime in Montreal.
Vincent Brossard’s production of Verdi’s Otello for the 2016 Salzburg Easter Festival is both elegant and subtle; the latter quality being backed up by superb singing and acting from the principals. In many ways the production is clean and straightforward with a focus on character development but it also makes use of elegant lines and sharply contrasting darks and lights in creating the stage picture. There’s also a really cool use of mirrors during Già nella notte densa that I can’t quite figure out.
The story line for Bellini’s opera I Capuletti e I Montecchi will be familiar enough though it’s very condensed and based on the earlier source by Bandello rather than Shakespeare’s more elaborate reworking. So, lots of feuding but no back story, no balcony scene, no friar’s cell. But (spoiler alert) the ending is the same. Vincent Broussard’s production, originally from Munich but filmed in San Francisco in 2012, sets the work around the time of its composition and seems at times to reference that it was composed for the Venice Carnivale. It also veers around between being quite literal and trying to make the story something going on in Romeo’s head. The production is quite influenced visually by the fact that the costumes were designed by Christian Lacroix and it’s unclear whether he’s trying to support the production concept or promote his brand.