December is not just Messiah though heaven knows there are plenty of those…
On Sunday 1st Voicebox is presenting Janáček’s Katya Kabanova. It has a strong cast including Lynn Isnar, Emilia Boteva, Michael Barrett and Cian Horrobin. We don’t see nearly enough Janáček in Toronto. That’s at 2.30pm at the St. Lawrence Centre.
Against the Grain’s remount of Figaro’s Wedding runs December 3rd to the 20th at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse at 8pm. Music direction this time is by Rachael Kerr and the cast includes Bruno Roy, Miriam Khalil, Ally Smither, Phillip Addis, Lauren Eberwein, Jacques Arsenault, Maria Soulis and Greg Finney. Review of the 2013 original.
I guess it’s starting to quieten down a bit. Next week there are a couple of things of interest. On Monday the Faculty Artists at UoT have a concert in Walter Hall with Uri Mayer conducting. It’s an all Mahler program with the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and the Fourth Symphony. The vocal soloists are Monica Whicher and Darryl Edwards. Later in the week the UoT Opera has its main fall production. This time it’s Don Giovanni conducted by Uri Mayer and directed by Marilyn Gronsdale. That’s in the MacMillan Theatre at 7.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a matinée on Sunday. There will, as usual be two casts; one on Thurs/Sat and the other Fri/Sun. On Friday there’s another Whose Opera is is Anyway? from LooseTEA Theatre; Toronto’s opera improv. That’s at 7.30pm at the Comedy Bar. They are moving from there (good!) to Bad Dog Theatre for their December show on the 20th which should also be hosting a monthly show in 2018.
The Ukrainian Art Song Project have a couple of events coming up. There’s an opportunity to audit the Summer Institute at the Temerty Theatre at the RCM on August 9th through 11th. Advance registration is required but it’s free. The concluding concert is on Sunday 13th August at 3pm also in the Temerty. Tickets are $25 from the RCM box office or their website. The nine singers include: Taras Chmil, Tenor; Natalya Gennadi, Soprano; Laura McAlpine, Mezzo-Soprano; David McCune, Bass; Viktoriia Melynk, Soprano; Tasha Meisami-Farivar, Mezzo-Soprano; Ariane Meredith, Mezzo-Soprano, Andrew Skitko, Tenor and Oleksandra Verzole, Soprano. They will interpret the works of Ukrainian composers, including Vasyl Barvinsky, Mykola Lysenko and Yasiv Stepovyi.
Meanwhile on July 27th LooseTEA have another improv night with the second Whose Opera is it Anyway?! at the Comedy Bar at 945 Bloor West. Tickets are $12 from the Comedy Bar website. Performers include Greg Finney, Lindsay Sutherland Boal, Adanya Dunn, Jonathan MacArthur, Rachel Krehm, Amanda Cougan, Jeff Boyd, Gillian Grossman and Erin Stone.
So after a bit of a hiatus the Toronto music scene is coming back to life. The Toronto Summer Music Festival has kicked off and the main interest for followers of the vocal arts lies in the Art Song fellows project with concerts at 1pm on each of the next two Saturdays in Walter Hall (free but tickets required). Then the vocal highlight of the festival; Soile Isokoski in recital with Martin Katz at 7.30pm on the 18th at Walter Hall. The programme includes the Schumann Mary Stuart songs, the Strauss Ophelia songs plus some Wolf and, of course, Sibelius. Ms. Isokoski is also giving a public masterclass in Walter Hall on the 23rd at 2pm.
Usually this is when things start to quieten down. Not so much this year. On the opera front it does go a bit flat though Opera 5 have their Ethel Smythe double bill opening at Theatre Passe Muraille on the 22nd. There’s also an evening of opera improv; Whose opera is it anyways?! at the Bad Dog Theatre on the 16th organised by Loose TEA theatre. And there’s quite a bit more of interest. Continue reading →
The other night I was chatting to some folks at a performance by Loose TEA Theatre and a comment was made to the effect that it was companies like Loose TEA and Against the Grain who were creating the future audience for opera. I didn’t think about it much of the time but it turned into a sort of brainworm that wouldn’t go away. I don’t think the idea was that somehow innovative “pop up” type companies would replace the likes of the COC; at least not this side of nuclear war or total economic collapse (neither of which seems impossible it has to be said). So the hypothesis has to be that this sort of endeavour makes a significant contribution to replacing the aging “big house” audience. As I began to mull that over and further stimulated by yet another fact free piece in The Guardian on “opera snobs” (courtesy of Schmopera) I started to develop a number of lines of enquiry that aren’t exactly tangential to the original hypothesis but rather seem more like a set of eigenvectors defining the problem space. Which is a mathematician’s way of saying that what follows is kind of all over the place.
Loose TEA Theatre’s new show Autocorrect Opera opened last night on the steamy outdoor patio of Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu. It’s a double bill of one acters adapted for the age of the smartphone and the text message. The first piece; Sravinsky’s Mavra was played fairly straight. The young girl Parasha does open the piece with a lament about her boyfriend not texting her and the final denouement is brought on by a missed text but otherwise the plot isn’t much altered though we get a neat updating to the home of a contemporary, status conscious bourgeois with references to the price of Ferrari tyres etc. Good performances all round with Morgan Strickland as a well sung, angsty Parasha, Greg Finney, with his characteristic power and comic timing, as the rich and rather obnoxious father. Keenan Viau, coming in at short notice for an indisposed Daniel Wheeler, was the convincingly annoying neighbour and Justin Stolz was excellent as the extremely unconvincing cross dressing pizza boy, boyfriend, maid. So, good fun but maybe not taking the theme of the evening as far as it might have gone.
The latest offering from Loose Tea Theatre is a show called AuroCorrect Operas. Basically it’s Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne and Stravinsky’s Mavra updated for the internet age. I seem to have seen a lot of internet themed opera recently ranging from cyberbullying to screaming goats. Perhaps it’s a meme? The show runs August 21st to 24th at the Navillus Gallery on Davenport. Loose Tea’s previous effort; La tragédie de Carmen, was well worth seeing so this is probably one to see.
So what was I most impressed with on the opera and related scene in in 2013?
Big house opera
The COC had a pretty good twelve months. I enjoyed everything I saw except, maybe, Lucia di Lammermoor. Making a choice between Christopher Alden’s probing La Clemenza di Tito, the searing opening night of Peter Sellars’ Tristan und Isolde; the night when I really “got” why people fly across oceans to see this piece, Robert Carsen’s spare and intensely moving Dialogues des Carmélites or Tony Dean Griffey’s intense and lyrical portrayal of the title character in Peter Grimes is beyond me. So, I shall be intensely disloyal to my home company and name as my pick in this category the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Wernicke’s production is pure magic and Anna Schwanewilms was a revelation.
La tragédie de Carmen is a stripped down version of Bizet’s opera originally created by Peter Brook some thirty years ago. It dispenses with the chorus and most of the minor characters to focus in on the central drama of Carmen, Micaëla, Don José and Escamillo with some support from Zuniga and Lillas Pastia. In Loose TEA Theatre’s version the action is transferred to New York in the 1920s and given a night club/mob setting which stretches the libretto but allows the rather striking Cassandra Warner to appear in some quite stunning outfits.
The piece is very condensed. It runs maybe 80 minutes. Presented in a small space like Buddies in bad times it becomes almost unbearably intense, especially when presented by fine actors as it was here. Central to the whole thing is Warner’s stunning Carmen. She is very good looking in a rather angular 1920s sort of way. She can act and she has a really good voice. The tone is genuine mezzo but she seems quite comfortable well up into soprano territory. The overall effect was extremely sexy.