VOICEBOX: Opera in Concert presented Mozart’s early opera Lucio Silla yesterday at the St. Lawrence Centre. Inevitably it was in a much reduced version (the original is insanely long) coming in at around two hours and organised into two acts. Tis left the principals with maybe three arias each plus a few ensemble numbers. It was presented off book but with a very minimalist production; piano at the centre of an otherwise empty stage, some atmospheric projections, basic blocking and some sort of hybrid of costume and concert wear. It actually worked rather well. This is very much a “tell” rather than “show” opera and fancy scenic effects weren’t really required.
Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured the vocalist Rebanks fellows from the Glenn Gould School. There was some very classy and very powerful singing. We heard Hannah Crawford, fresh off her second place at Centre Stage, sing a couple of arias; “Pleurez, plearez mes yeux” from Masenet’s Le Cid and “Come Scoglio” from Cosí. There was some very considerable power on display here as well as accuracy and emotion. Definitely one to watch.
Veteran mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter appeared in recital at Koerner Hall yesterday afternoon with pianist Christopher Berner. The first part of the programme was some fairly gentle Mozart with some fairly light weight Weckerlin and one long Schubert piece; “Die Viola”. A short Mozart piano piece rounded out the programme. It was stylish, enjoyable singing but one felt that both choice of material and method of presentation were being chosen to conserve the voice. How would things go after the interval when three songs from Winterreise were promised?
Last night the Happenstancers presented another intriguing concert of chamber music titled Chimaera. This time it was in the excellent hall at 918 Bathurst. It was a clever conceit. There were three “sets” with each consisting of two contrasting works that were combined in different ways.
The pieces in the first set were played straightforwardly consecutively but consisted of the least familiar music; Julia Wolfe’s Reeling and the premiere of Nahre Sol’s Chunhyang. Wolfe is one of those young American composers who combine a conservatory training with a taste for minimalism and hard driving rock and, in the case of this piece, folk music. It’s scored for nine instrumentalists including electric guitar and drum kit plus lots of electronics. It’s really cool and reminds me of the most drunk ceilidhs I’ve ever been to. And that may be why I remember almost nothing about the second piece except that the composer (keyboards) was playing it.
Well it took me a while to get hold of a copy of the third of the Harnoncourt Mozart/da Ponte operas. It is, of course, Così fan tutte and like the previous two operas is semi-staged at the Theater an der Wien. Also like the previous two there’s about an hour documentary which in this case consists almost entirely of rehearsal footage. It’s well worth watching though there is some obvious overlap with the previous two and most of what I would say about it I already did in my review of Le nozze di Figaro which I recommend reading along with this one.
It’s becoming a bit of a habit. The Royal Opera has released a video recording of the 2019 revival of Kaspar Holten’s 2014 production of Don Giovanni directed by Jack Furness and conducted by Helmut Haenchen. I’ve already reviewed both the DVD and the cinema broadcast of the 2014 production so saying much about the production would be superfluous. Suffice to say it’s one of the better Don Giovannis available on disk.
Last night saw the third and final concert in the inaugural West End Micro Music Festival. Sadly we had missed number two because of TTC snarl ups but we got there fine last night. The first half of the programme was Mozart and Stravinsky but presented in an unconventional and very effective way. The movements of Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Clarinet and Three Pieces for String Quartet were alternated with an arrangement for clarinet and string trio of Mozart’s adagio from K370 and two of the fragments from K516. It was really cool; one each of the Stravinsky clarinet and string pieces, followed by some Mozart. Rinse and repeat! There were a couple of fairly dark pieces but mostly this is quite playful music and the musicians; Emily Kruspe and Eric Kim-Fujita (violins), Maxime Despax (viola), Sebastian Ostertag (cello) and Brad Cherwin (clarinets) were obviously having a lot of fun.
Last night the first of three concerts at Lutheran Redeemer Church in the West End Micro Music Festival took place. It was an exploration of the boundaries and possibilities of the string quartet and proved most interesting in that regard. The use of extended technique has long been part of the string quartet repertoire but in the first part of last night’s programme two works by Nicole Lizée explored much further than that using additional “instruments”; whirly/whizzy things, strange blue/purple contraptions that made their own sounds and were also used as bows and sheets of paper rustled in front of fans. Norma Beecroft’s Amplified Quartet with Tape augmented the four instruments with recorded electronics. Whether this was all pre-recorded or processed as the performance proceeded (or both) I couldn’t say. One has to admire the versatility of the interro quartet (Steve Sang Koh and Eric Kim-Fujita – vilolins, Maxime Despax -viola and Sebastian Ostertag – cello) in handling all the requirements. It also really made me glad to be back listening “live”. This kind of music demands a kind of distraction free attention that’s really hard to conjure up in one’s own living room.
As live music slowly rises from the tomb in Toronto we greet any new initiative with enthusiasm. When it comes from the fertile creative imagination of Brad Cherwin and friends we get even more excited. Mozart is DEAD aka the West End Micro Music Festival is a series of three concerts at the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 1691 Bloor Street West (close to Keele subway). The concerts are at 7.30pm on three successive Fridays; November 26th, December 3rd and 10th. In the first the Interro Quartet reinvent the string quartet, in the second we are promised “thickets of cables” transforming “single voices into otherwordly and ethereal choruses” and in the last we get a fresh take on music by Mozart, Stravinsky and Francaix.
More details and tickets are available here. It’s free for students and about $20 per or $50 for all three for grown ups.