The Tcherniakov Don Giovanni that I just finished watching on Blu-ray is a Canadian Opera Company co-production so, sooner or later, it should end up in Toronto. That will be interesting. There’s a very conservative streak in the Toronto audience and, especially, among the critics for the major newspapers. These are people who are disturbed by Robert Carsen and go apopleptic over Chris Alden. It will be most interesting to see what the reaction is to something like Tcherniakov’s interpretation, even though it’s not that radical by European standards.
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.
Opera 101(I) at the Duke of Westminster last night was more interesting than I expected. Besides the usual host, Brent Bambury, we had the director of the current production Paul Curran, Mark Delavan, who is singing Scarpia, and Julie Makerov, one of two Toscas. Delavan and Makerov were engaging and funny if not specially revelatory though both revealed a taste for country music which is a bit disturbing. Most of the interest came from Curran. He’s an intense little Scot who tells it how he sees it. He grew up in the less salubrious parts of Glasgow (I’m reliably informed that there are salubrious bits!) and the first opera he saw was Wozzeck which he describes as the story of his life. I was struck by his emphasis on the role of the music in his directorial process. He described himself as a “musician first” and talked at some length about his role in making sure that the singers can sing to their best ability. He’s also no literalist. I asked him whether the very specific time and place setting of Tosca was constraining or liberating and he went on a bit of a rant which I loved! He listed off the historical inaccuracies with the Tosca libretto with encyclopaedic accuracy peppered with expressions like “complete bullshit” basically ending up at “so I feel I can do pretty much what I like with it”. He’s also not one for the pretties. He told a story about being criticized because Tosca’s dress in Act 2 was inelegant. His response “It’s a rape scene (F word not far away here we feel). I don’t think she’s asking ‘does my bum look big in this?'”. I liked his take on “Vissi d’arte” as a Jewish aria too. He’s alluding to it’s sense of a contractual relationship with God as opposed to Tosca’s over Catholicism (he’s from a very Catholic family). All in all good value.
We had a brief chat afterwards about Britten, ‘difficult’ operas and stuff. I want to see his Peter Grimes but, unfortunately, Santa Fe isn’t exactly next door.
In a couple or three hours it will back to COC for me for the third time in 24 hours. This time for the 2012/13 season announcement.
fn1. Opera 101 is a pub based series of fairly informal talks by members of the creative team for various COC productions.