There’s an interesting new project on Youtube from Natalya Gennadi and Catherine Carew. It’s called HBD! Project and the idea is to produce a short themed video each month featuring composers whose birthdays fall in that month. The February pilot is online and it’s a bit different from other “shows” in similar vein that I’ve come across. This one features a song by Alban Berg sung by Natalya with a fluffy puppy, music for cello and piano by Jean Coulthard played by Alice Kim and Hye Won Cecilia Lee and Rodney Sharman’s Tobacco Road sung by Catherine. So what’s new you ask (apart from the puppy)? It’s the graphics with Mozart in a party hat, animated Emily Carr paintings and a look for the Sharman that could double as the witches’ scene in Macbeth. Yes it’s a bit weird but oddly compelling.
Peter Eötvös’ 1998 opera Tri sestry is based on the Chekhov play and was recorded live at Oper Frankfurt in 2018. It takes fragments of the original Russian play and recombines them in a non-linear way to create a prologue and three “Sequences” from the points of view of Irina, Andrei and Mascha repectively. The recombination is complex enough for the accompanying booklet to contain a table mapping Chekhov’s scene order to Eötvös’. There’s no libretto in the CD package so even flipping between the (fairly detailed) synopsis and the track listing it’s hard to figure out who is singing or about what. No doubt this was much clearer when watching the stage production.
Matters are not made any easier by giving all the female roles to male singers. The sisters and Natascha are given to counter tenors while the nanny Anfisa is sung by a bass. This is fine except that a non-trivial amount of text is spoken and counter tenors sound just like any other male when speaking which further increases the difficulty of keeping things straight, especially with a cast of thirteen characters! Non-Russian speakers are unlikely to be able to follow much of the text anyway as singers sing over each other for most of the first two Sequences. It does get a bit more open and sparer in the third sequence and someone with a strong knowledge of the language will likely pick up nuances there that I missed.
The Ward Cabaret, which opened at Harbourfront last night, is an exuberant celebration of the Ward; a Toronto neighbourhood that once covered the area bounded by Queen and College and Yonge and University. From the mid 1800s until well into the 20th century it was far from the highly respectable quartier it’s become. It was the first landing place for immigrants; Irish, Jews, Chinese, fugitive slaves, Italians. A neighbourhood of low rent housing, cheap restaurants, the factories that fed Mr. Eaton’s catalogue and a bunch of rather more dubious businesses. The City Fathers hated it but it had a life of its own that David Buchbinder (he of Yiddish Glory) and his team have turned into a spectacular evening of theatre/cabaret.
The main stage concert for TSM at Koerner Hall last night was given by the Art of Time Ensemble with vocalists John Southworth and Sarah Slean. It’s my first encounter with Art of Time have been around for about ten years and specialise in cross genre collaborations inspired by their founder, pianist Andrew Burashko.
Last night was classical meets singer songwriter. There was an introductory piece by Christos Hatzis, some Schubert, plenty of Gershwin and lashings of Leonard Cohen plus much more (there was no set list and I didn’t take notes). It’s rather out of my usual zone but I enjoyed. Southworth is a really quirky vocalist, exemplified by a rather weird version of The Old Folks at Home; which needed to be weird! Slean is quite a performer; good voice, very funny, great mover. The ensemble was terrific across the board. I’m sold. There are lots of reasons to stretch the boundaries of classical performance. Larry Beckwith does it very well with his Confluence series. Here’s another example.
The late show, also at Koerner, featured Jonathan Crow, Katya Poplyansky, Minkyoung Lee and Allison Rich in a performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in B-flat Major Op. 130 but with a twist. They played the full original version in which the Grosse Fuge Op. 133 forms the finale. So, basically, an hour long string quartet! It was very well done though I confess late Beethoven at 10.30 pm was straining the grey matter.
The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.
There were three reGENERATION concerts in Walter Hall yesterday at 1pm, 4pm and 7.30pm. It made for a long but interesting day. As last year, each concert was a mix of vocal and chamber music. The vocal program was not announced in advance so I’m working from notes and there could be the odd error. Pleasingly, there were surtitles for the songs. This is a huge improvement on a sheet of tiny print to be read in the dark! Continue reading →
Walter Hall at lunchtime today saw the annual recital for the winners of the Norcop Prize in song and the Williams Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying. The winners this year were baritone Korin Thomas-Smith and pianist Joy Lee. It was a very well constructed recital. It was all English language and consisted of three sets of highly contrasted moods.
And so the final act. First on stage was Emily D’Angelo; the only lady left in the competition. It was an accomplished and varied set. She started with a characterful and technically proficient Una voce poco fa followed by an appropriately lyrical Must the winter come so soon?Coeur sans amour from the Massenet Cendrillon showed off excellent French before a suitably dramatic rendering of the Komponist’s aria from Ariadne. Pretty much all the mezzo bases covered there and covered very well.
So I guess I wasn’t that impressed with the first session in the aria competition; too much loud, technically correct, but dull singing. Things were much better in the evening though. First up was Russian mezzo Alexandra Yangel. She was very personable and fun to watch but a bit wayward vocally. Nobles seigneurs, Salut! from Les Huguenots was dramatic and lyrical in places but her upper register gets quite squally. This was even more noticeable in the aria from La Cenerentola that followed. I liked the passion and the vocal acting ability in her Smanie, implacabili though.