Lost in a Russian Forest

SONY DSCCroatian bass Goran Jurić is currently making his North American debut as Sarastro in the COC’s Magic Flute.  Today he gave a lunchtime recital with Anne Larlee in the RBA.  It was an all Russian programme; Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Sviridov.  I don’t want to do a blow by blow review because I don’t know the rep well enough and it seems a bit pointless.  Instead let’s talk about Jurić as an artist, as shown by his performance here (and not surprisingly as Sarastro).  He’s a genuine bass, no messing.  The low notes are all there and the timbre is rich and dark when he wants it to be.  But he’s also extremely lyrical.  He can lighten up without ever stopping sounding like a bass.  It’s a most pleasant combination.  He’s also a terrific storyteller.  This seems like an odd thing to say about a recital where not a word was spoken and all the songs were in a language I scarcely understand at all, yet I felt he was communicating the essence of the text with great clarity as a good lieder singer must.  Anne was great as an accompanist too.  There was quite a lot of range in the piano parts from quite delicate and playful in some of the Sviridov to cranking the pedals up to 11 in some of the Rachmaninov.  A very good way to spend one’s lunch break.

Besides, it was great to see Anne Larlee back at the Four Seasons Centre and to discover a young bass who I want to hear a lot more of.  Fortunately he’s back next season as Osmin in Entführung.

Photo credit: Karen E. Reeves

Next week (mostly) in the RBA


Things are still a bit quiet on the vocal music front (the lull before the storm judging by my agenda) but there are a couple of free concerts of interest at noon in the RBA next week.  On Tuesday, bass Goran Jurić, currently singing Sarastro at the COC, is teaming up with Anne Larlee in an all Russian program featuring works by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Spiridov.  Then on Thursday there’s a concert in the chamber music series featuring the members of the COC orchestra academy.  But once again, the chamber series deceives because half of the program (at least) features soprano Jaqueline Woodley in a series of Handel arias.  Later, at 7pm at The Fifth Pubhouse, the COC is hosting Opera Trivia Night with trivia master Russell Harder.  It’s free but ticketed.  Tisckets from coc.ca or the Four Seasons box office.  The COC’s Magic Flute continues with the first chance to see the alternative cast on Sunday afternoon (29th) at the Four Seasons Centre, which is pretty close to sold out.  No doubt the matinee show will be a lot of kids’ first opera.

Jeunesses Musicales

symoon Last night I was fortunate enough to be at a musical evening organised by Jeunesses Musicales Ontario.  The umbrella organisation has come a long way since being founded during WW2 as an anti-Nazi youth movement (*).  In Ontario it’s main activity is promoting musical events for young people and providing performance opportunities for young artists; notably an annual song recital tour.  You may recall that I wrote about the kick off of the latest one in which Simone Osborne and Anne Larlee are performing across Canada with a show that includes a specially commissioned piece by Brian Current.   Continue reading

That passionate monosyllable

applebyYoung American tenor Paul Appleby has been delighting audiences in the current COC production of Così fan tutte where he sings Ferrando. Today he got to show us what he could do as a lieder singer in a lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  He started off with a stylish, if occasionally tentative, set of five Schubert songs.  It was a promising start with some very stylish and controlled singing and unhistrionic acting with the voice.  Hitting his stride, he gave us seven songs from Schumann’s Myrten cycle.  These covered a wide range of moods from tender passion to drunken ecstasy.  Again great skill and artistry and lovely accompaniment from Anne Larlee at the piano.

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Love and Life

Songs of Life&Love HR (4 of 25)Anne Larlee and Simone Osborne brought their Maureen Forrester recital tour to Toronto today, courtesy of Jeunesses Musicales Canada and the COC’s free lunchtime concert series.  The programme featured works by Bellini, Schumann, Hahn and Richard Strauss plus two specially commissioned pieces from Brian Current.

I particularly enjoyed the Schumann and Strauss pieces.  Simone’s interpretation of the Frauenliebe und -Leben showed a very wide range of emotion and tone colour and exceptionally good German diction.  The three Strauss songs also displayed considerable power.  This was very classy lieder singing.

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Simone Osborne on tour

simone_osborneThe schedule and programme for the first part of Simone Osborne and Anne Larlee’s Jeunesse Musicale tour have been released.  They will perform in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on November 12th at noon.  The other venues are mostly smaller centres in Ontario and Quebec.  The programme includes some Richard Strauss and two works by Brian Current including a new commission.  Full details are contained in the linked PDF below.

Simone Osborne JMC Tour Release – October 2013

Here we go again

Yesterday saw the first of this season’s free concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  As has become the norm it featured the singers of the COC’s Ensemble Studio.  This year it was dedicated to the memory of the late Lotfi Mansouri and included a couple of short tributes to him.

Six of the Ensemble’s singers are new this year, as is the sole pianist, so these were mostly singers I haven’t heard a lot of.  I’ve also observed how much members of the Ensemble Studio develop in the programme and last year we had a solid group of third years with a few new entrants.  The balance has shifted to the other extreme and so no surprise that yesterday we heard more potential than polish.


Front (l – r): Clarence Frazer, Sasha Djihanian, Danielle MacMillan, Michael Shannon
Middle (l – r): Gordon Bintner, Aviva Fortunata, Claire de Sévigné, Cameron McPhail
Back (l – r): Andrew Haji, Charlotte Burrage, Owen McCausland
Photographer: Karen Reeves

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Songs of Life and Love

simone_osborneLast night saw the launch of the first triennial Maureen Forrester Memorial Prize tour.  Sponsored by Jeunesses Musicales Canada, soprano Simone Osborne and pianist Anne Larlee will tour some forty cities across Canada over the next two years performing material on the theme “Songs of Life and Love”.  Each recital will include a new work; Birefringence, by Brian Current, commissioned by the Canadian Art Song Project.   Continue reading

And in more competition news…

simone_sThe lovely Simone Osborne has been announced as the winner of the first Maureen Forrester Award Tour.  So Simone will be appearing with Anne Larlee in forty recitals across the country which will feature, among other things, a new work by composer Brian Current, sponsored by the Canadian Art Song Project.  I guess recital tours have the advantage of there being no scenery to come crashing down on one’s head!

Maybe Gatsby should get himself a frequent flyer card and a really comfortable carrier.

Ponderings on the Subject of Love

Julie Makerov and Anne Larlee in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

For the Valentine’s Day lunchtime concert at the Four Seasons Centre American dramatic soprano Julie Makerov chose a series of art songs by English and American composers on various aspects of love.  I was familiar with the English works by Quilter and Britten, though more used to hear them sung by male singers, and not at all familiar with the American works by Berger, Barber and Heggie.  It made for an interesting mix.

A dramatic soprano wouldn’t normally be my first choice for a song recital but Ms. Makerov is very skilled.  She scaled her voice back nicely and had her vibrato well under control.  She also had excellent diction and a good feel for the text.  She didn’t have the most interesting range of tone colour I’ve ever heard but it was a most musical and enjoyable performance.  She performed the whole set from memory which is nice.  The highlights for me included a couple of Quilter settings; Weep You No More Sad Fountains and The Faithless Shepherdess, and a really moving account of Britten’s setting of O, Waly, Waly.  I also really liked the three songs by Berger; In Time of Silver Rain, Heart and Carolina Cabin.  In case we thought the whole thing too serious she encored with an appropriately over the top rendering of Heggie’s Alas, Alack.

Anne Larlee, on piano, once again showed what a fine accompanist she is and there was a very good cameo for cellist Paul Widner in Heggie’s What My Lips Have Kissed.

It was well worth braving the driving sleet of a truly dreich Toronto day.