Summer Night is a CD of songs by Healey Willan produced by the Canadian Art Song project and due to be released on the Centrediscs label next month. Willan is best known as a composer of church and choral music but he also wrote over 100 songs and song arrangements, many of which have not been published, let alone recorded. There are 28 songs on the CD ranging in composition date from 1899 to the late 1920s. Most are original settings of the text though a few are arrangements of existing songs; either traditional or by Burns.
Opera Atelier has announced its 2019/20 season. As usual there are two main stage shows. The first is a revival of their 2011 production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. It runs from October 31st to November 9th, 2019, in the Ed Mirvish Theatre. It’s a production that plays up the comedy and the elements of the commedia dell’arte in the piece while pretty much eschewing anything deeper or darker. The cast includes Douglas Williams as the Don with Stephen Hegedus as Leporello, Colin Ainsworth, as Don Ottavio, Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna, Carla Huhtanen as Donna Elvira, Mireille Asselin as Zerlina, Olivier Laquerre as Masetto, and Gustav Andreassen as Commendatore. beautiful Ed Mirvish Theatre. David Fallis conducts.
There’s much to like in this year’s unfussy TSO Messiah. It’s not bloated. For most of the piece conductor Johannes Debus deploys around thirty strings, chamber organ, harpsichord, oboes and bassoon. Trumpets and timpani are added for the grand moments later in the piece. He even manages to get quite a delicate sound out of the largish (100+) Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. The delicacy is a recurrent thread. That and a really bouncy sense of rhythm. One could dance to Debus’ Handel.
Opera Atelier’s french double header opened last night at the Elgin Theatre. It was, bar the occasional twist, classic Opera Atelier. They presented two French baroque operas in their distinctive style with a little humour and none of the excesses that have sometimes crept in.
Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, in a production by Stephen Lawless, opened last night at the COC. Bel canto fans, canary fanciers and, just maybe, the rest of us should rush and see it. The singing is extraordinary. The cast is led by Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role and she gives, pretty much, a masterclass in bel canto technique. The control is extraordinary with gleaming top notes, exquisitely floated pianissimo, genuine trills and real emotion. Only a slight raspiness occasionally evident in the recits even hinted that this was a singer who was too sick to perform only a few days ago. Where to go next among some very fine performances? Bruce Sledge as Percy I think. This was thrilling tenor singing with passion, ringing high notes and wonderful musicality.
The COC’s revival of Robert Lepage’s 2009 production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, revived by Marilyn Gronsdal, is a delightful mix of witty and clever stagecraft coupled with some fine music making. It’s very much a work of two contrasting halves. The first is a carefully constructed program of shorter Stravinsky vocal and instrumental works; all from the period 1911-1919 and all with a sound world reminiscent of The Firebird or Petrouchka rather than The Rite of Spring or the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto. The full line up was:
- Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet No.1
- Berceuses du chat
- Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont
- Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet No.2
- Four Russian Peasant Songs
- Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet No.3
- The Fox
Today’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured Lucia Cesaroni and Alysson McHardy with Rachel Andrist at the piano and Iain Scott narrating in a program that wasn’t, as expected, all Rossini. Rather it was music written by and for six of the women in Rossini’s life in a program inspired by Patricia Morehead. So what we got was plenty of Rossini, some Bellini, some Clara Schumann and music composed by the ladies themselves. I’m moderately familiar with the music of Pauline Viardot (younger sister of Maria Malibran) but I had never heard anything composed by Malibran, Isabella Colbran, Pauline Sabatier, Giuditta Pasta or Adelina Patti. As it turns out all were perfectly competent song composers and it was good to hear some rather rare material.