Talisker Players latest show, High Standards, was a bit different from previous efforts of theirs that I have attended. This was all about the music. There were no prose or poetry readings. The music was a selection from what might be considered the “golden age” of the Broadway musical. The time period covered being the four decades from 1933 to 1973 or, roughly, Showboat to A Little Night Music. I’m not an expert in Broadway theatre but I was struck by how the music remained remarkably similar over that period while the lyrics got, generally, more sardonic. That’s pretty curious when one reflects on the changed in classical music, and even popular music over that time period. Where the music did seem to be rather different was when there was an “intervention” from someone with a foot in another camp. There were selections here from Gershwin and Bernstein that did sound different. The latter in particular playing with tonality in a way that seemed very daring by comparison, though tame of course by classical music standards. I’m sure proper musicologists would have much more to say about this. Continue reading
Opera/concert season is pretty much done in the big smoke though there is the Toronto Summer Music Festival (see below). Attention moves to various more rural venues and to some seriously eclectic programming. Out in Northumberland County there’s the Westben Festival with concerts in a barn ranging fro Irish trad to Richard Margison. The highlight, for me, here would be a recital by Suzy Leblanc and Julius Drake featuring French mélodies, Strauss lieder and English songs by Christos Hatzis. That one is on July 30. Westben also has the UBC Opera Ensemble doing Carmen and, for those so inclined, a programme of Broadway tunes from the ever reliable Virginia Hatfield, Brett Polegato and James Levesque. No word on whether Brett’s cat is also performing.
Meanwhile, back in the smoke there is the Toronto Summer Music Festival which kicks off on July 16th with the Trio Pennetier Pasquier Pidoux in an all French programme. The highlights for me are the Gryphon Trio with Bob Pomakov on the 18th and Philippe Sly with Julius Drake on the 23rd.
Last night I went to see Essential Opera’s cheap and cheerful production of Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. It was a semi staged production in the relatively small Heliconian Hall. Semi-staged in this case meant sung in costume from music stands with very basic blocking. Accompaniment was by Cathy Nosaty on piano and accordion which actually suited the music pretty well.
The singing was good, sometimes very good. Probably the stand out was Laura McAlpine’s Jenny. Of all the singers on display she was the one who seemed most immersed in the sound world of the piece and could vary style and technique appropriately. Erin Bardua’s Lucy Brown was really quite idiomatic too. The others were more consistently operatic which sounded a bit odd in places but worked surprisingly well in, for example David Roth and Heather Jewson’s rather refined refined and bourgeois Peachums. Obviously this approach also worked for the character who are usually sung operatically; Macheath, Brown and Polly for example. The ensembles were all also very effective.