Song of the Earth

Last night’s final Koerner Hall event in Toronto Summer Music started off with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major.  It’s a tuneful, well constructed piece which in places riffs off Romany music, hence its nickname “Turkish”.  Jonathan Crow was the soloist with a small orchestra drawn from all the area’s major orchestras plus TSM Fellows.  Gemma New conducted.  It was very satisfying.  The orchestra was excellent and the interplay between solist and orchestra worked very well.  It’s quite a demanding piece for the soloist and I really enjoyed the sound that Jonathan produced.  He plays an instrument with a rather distinctive timbre which worked well here.  I’m curious about the first movement cadenza.  I don’t know the work well enough to knoew what the options are but this one was very virtuosic though sounding distinctly post-Mozartian.

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Coming Up

There are a couple of interesting concerts coming up in the last week of the Toronto Summer Music Festival.  On the 24th at 7.30pm in Walter Hall you can see Collectìf in a “spooky” programme.  Collectìf is a group started by Danika Lorèn and friends.  They do shows that incorporate staging, art song and video and they are never boring.  (They also do adult cabaret but that’s another story!).  Wednesday’s show is called Beyond Perception: What Haunts Us Now and features three sections.  The first is built around the theme of La Dame Blanche, the second features Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder and the last deals with the myth of Daphne and Apollo.  Recommended.  And as an added incentive for operaramblings readers there’s a discount code OR10 which will get you $10 tickets.  Tickets from the Royal Conservatory Box Office online, in person or by phone.

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Toronto Summer Music opener

Last night saw the first concert of this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival.  The theme was “Beyond Borders” with most of the works presented; a mixture of piano, violin and vocal, having been influenced by other cultures/places or written in exile.

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Reimagined Zauberflöte

The 2018 Salzburg Festival production of Die Zauberflöte really pushes the envelope of reenvisioning the piece.  Is there anything to say about this piece that hasn’t already been said?  Lydia Steier thinks so and goes some considerable way tp making her point.  So what’s the big idea here?  Essentially the kicking off points are that it’s about (in a sense) a dysfunctional family and it’s a fairy tale.  So we open on the dining room of a rather depressing bourgeois Austrian family in the mid 1930s sitting down to dinner.  There’s the mother, the father, the grandfather and three boys; all rather formally dressed.  A portrait of a bride hangs behind the table.  The father has a hissy fit and storms out.  The mother, who appears to drink, starts breaking things.  The grandfather takes the boys off to the nursery to read them a bedtime story.

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A brace of baritones

Last night Thomas Hampson, his son in law Luca Pisaroni and pianist Vlad Intifca appeared at Koerner Hall.  It was a curious program.  The first half was made up of opera arias and excerpts.  There was a sequence of Conte/Figaro and Leporello/Don G numbers.  They were, of course, very well sung.  Both singers are noted exponents of these roles but I really didn’t see the point.  They were pieces I’m sure pretty much every audience member has seen with orchestra, on stage, multiple times.  With piano accompaniment it all seemed a bit pointless.  There followed two longish scenes; the Riccardo/Giorgio confrontation from I Puritani and the scene from Don Carlo where Posa pleads with the king for a change in policy in the Netherlands.  These worked better; perhaps because they are less familiar but more likely the fact that each featured Pisaroni in a genuine bass role.  This allowed for more variation of timbre and colour than the Mozart pieces.

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The Magic Flute at the GGS

I went into last night’s Glenn Gould School performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Koerner Hall with all kinds of questions buzzing around in my head; partly because of an earlier conversation with director Joel Ivany and partly, well, Magic Flute – that most enigmatic of operas.  If only one could go back (more than forty years) to seeing it for the first time!

Photo: Nicola Betts

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UoT’s La finta giardiniera

I don’t think I’m ever going to love Mozart’s La finta giardiniera.  It has some pleasing music, though oddly the two principal characters don’t get much of it, but the plot is ridiculous and it really outstays its welcome.  That said, Michael Patrick Albano’s production for UoT Opera in the MacMillan Theatre at least makes the complexity clear.  We never lose sight of who is who; even if the other characters do, and what logic there is in the plot comes through clearly enough.  Albano sets it entirely realistically in 18th century dress with set elements efficiently dropped in from the fly loft or carried around by a small band of liveried servants.  There’s a fair bit of “park and bark” but then there’s a lot of prosy explaining going on.

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