February 2023

february2023Here’s what I’m looking forward to in February plus a few gigs I can’t make:

  • February 1st and 2nd the Chicago Symphony and Riccardo Muti are performing at Koerner Hall.  It’s a rare opportunity to hear a top orchestra in the wonderful Koerner acoustic but it’s probably sold out already.
  • On February 3rd the COC opens a run of Richard Strauss’ Salome with Ambur Braid in the title role and a stellar supporting cast.  Hard core Braid fans (and that includes me) know that this is a role she was born to sing.  It’s an Atom Egoyan production and he’ll likely tweak it but here’s a link to my review of the 2013 run.
  • February 6th sees the return of the Quilico Awards; a competition for the singers of the Ensemble Studio.  That’s at 5.30pm in the RBA and it’s free.

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Homage to Viardot

Yesterday the Ensemble Studio put on a really nicely curated tribute to Pauline Viardot.  Viardot was a singer, pianist, composer and muse who was enormously influential in music circles in paris in the middle years of the 19th century.  She came from a famous musical family and was the younger sister of Maria Malibran. Her own work is little performed today although the Royal Conservatory did her Cendrillon in 2016.

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Back to the RBA

midoriIn another nod to normality the COC’s free concert series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre kicked off with the traditional concert with the members of the Ensemble Studio.  It was reasonably well attended, which is good news. But unlike previous years one didn’t need to be there an hour early to get a seat.  Which is not so good news.  I’m really curious to see when and if we start to get back to pre-plague audiences.

For me in previous years, this concert has been about taking stock; an opportunity to reflect on which members of the ES have progressed and how.  Yesterday was much harder as I’ve seen little of any of them (live at least) for two and a half years.  Some things though stood out.  Midori Marsh, who kicked off the show with “Caro nome” has matured quite a lot.  She’s always had a terrific voice but here she showed as a much more polished and poised performer.  Alex Hetherington is also something of a known quality with her excellent 2021 Norcop Prize recital one of the better streamed events of the pandemic.  She gets bonus points for singing “Lord, to Thee Each Night” from Handel’s Theodora.  It’s a highly charged and technically awkward piece that demonstrated her technique and artistic sensibility nicely. Continue reading

#weirdopera

Ian Cusson and Colleen Murphy’s Fantasma opened at the Canadian Opera Company Theatre last night.  It’s billed as an opera for younger audiences though I think there were more composers than kids in the theatre last night!  It’s a ghost story.  Two fifteen year old girls and their mother are visiting an old fashioned carnival which is struggling financially.  There’s a “ghost” who is employed to scare patrons and generate social media coverage.  Then the girls find a real, rather sad, little ghost and things happen.  Or maybe they don’t.  And the opera ends.  Or maybe it doesn’t.  It’s surprisingly complex for a 45 minute piece for kids and raises issues about what we see and what we think we see; why adults do and don’t believe kids and so on.  When the (virtual) curtain came down rather abruptly I didn’t think I’d be thinking so much about it the next morning.  But I am.

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Vladimir Soloviev as Dante and Vartan Gabrielian as Tino

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In Winter

In Winter is the latest digital offering from the COC and is available free until June.  Described by the COC as a concert that “explores and celebrates winter” it’s more a Eurocentric potpourri of seasonal fare with a decidedly Christmas twist.  It’s a cut above “Christmas’ Greatest Hits” though a John Rutter arrangement of Deck the Halls and I’ll be Home for Christmas are in that vein and even the exuberance and lovely voice of Midori Marsh can’t make more of The Twelve Days of Christmas than is there to be had.

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Requiem for a pandemic

The COC/AtG film of Mozart’s Requiem is now available for viewing. It’s free but requires either registration with AtG or a (free) COC digital membership.  Directed by Joel Ivany, it’s essentially cast as a reflection on what we lost during the pandemic and as a statement of hope as, maybe, we reach the end.

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Back to the Future

Do you remember back when real live musicians used to perform for a real live audience?  Well some mad dudes are trying to revive it.  Tapestry Opera have some shows in conjunction with Canadian Stage coming up in High Park.  July 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th you can catch the show “Box Concerts” that Tapestry have been taking around health care facilities and offering for private booking.  It’s PWYC.  Booking is via Canadian Stage.  Also on the 17th at 3pm there’s an extended program including excerpts from Rocking Horse Winner where Asitha Tennekoon will be joined by Midori Marsh and Lucia Cesaroni.  That’s $50 booked at the same page.

Asitha Tennekoon performing in Tapestry Opera's Box Concerts. Photo by Dahlia Katz (1)

Photo credit: Dahlia Katz

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Rocking Horse Winner – the recording

rhwTapestry Opera’s original 2019/20 season was to have included a remount of Gareth Williams’ and Anna Chatterton’s Rocking Horse Winner which premiered to positive reviews in May 2016. This is quite unusual as all too often, new Canadian operas, even the successful ones pretty much disappear after an initial run. Needless to say the staged show didn’t happen but, happily, Tapestry decided to make an audio recording instead.

Three of the four principals from 2016; Asitha Tennekoon, Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivray reprise their original roles while Lucia Cesaroni replaces Carla Huhtanen as Ava.  This time around the house is represented by Midori Marsh, Alex Hetherington, Stephen Bell and Korin Thomas-Smith.

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Virtual Rubies

Like everything else the 2020 Rubies, Opera Canada‘s awards show, is going virtual this year.  It’s going out as a video, produced by Taylor Long of the COC, which will premier at 8pm on November 23rd.  Joyce El-Khoury hosts and Ben Heppner narrates the honouree videos, and then Barbara Hannigan, Michael Schade and Yannick Nezet-Seguin contribute  ‘acceptance’ speeches. Plus there’s a tribute to this year’s posthumous honouree, tenor Edward Johnson.  There are also performances by Russell Braun, Rihab Chaieb, Midori Marsh and Matt Cairns recorded in the studio with pianist and singer co-located. The show will be shown via OC’s Youtube channel.

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There’s much more about the honourees and their careers on the Opera Canada website: