Thursday 23rd at 8pm, Karina Gauvin is performing with Tafelmusik at Koerner Hall in a concert called The Baroque Diva. Details are here. This will be repeated on Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday at 3.30pm. Sunday at 3.30pm Voicebox are presenting Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina. I’m not sure where it will fall on the semi-staged to concert spectrum but it’s definitely piano accompaniment (Narmina Afandiyeva) and the cast is headed up by Andrey Andreychik. This is a piece that played in full runs over three hours so it will be interesting to see what they choose to include, or not.
Elena Tsallagova and Sandra Horst entertained the crowd in the RBA yesterday with a flower themed recital of French and Russian songs. It was a very well chosen selection that allowed Ms. Tsallagova to display her versatility. From Debussy’s quite operatic Rondel chinois, where she showed a lot of power for a young lyric soprano, through the varied moods of Bizet’s Feuilles d’album where by turns she was dramatic, sombre and very playful. Throughout she was extremely demonstrative while managing excellent phrasing and impeccable French. She has an interesting range of colours too, from extremely bright through to quite covered and dark and she’s not afraid to use them. Actually, the way she threw herself into the material I don’t think she is afraid of much!
VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert has announced details of their upcoming season. There are four shows:
- October 30th sees Shakespeare 400, featuring music using and inspired by Shakespeare’s texts. Solists are Michael Nyby, Holly Chaplin, Gena van Oosten, Diego Catalá, Stephanie Kallay, Anthony Rodrigues and Mikhail Shemet witrh pianist Narmina Afandiyeva and chorus.
- On November 20th it’s more bard (sort of) with Bellini’s I Capulet e i Montecchi. Anita Krause sings Romeo, Caitlin Wood is Juliet and Tonatiuh Abrego plays Tybalt with Raisa Nakhmanovich at the piano.
- Onto the new year and it’s Haydn’s L’isola disabitata on February 5th. This, for me, is the one to go for. Haydn’s operas are greatly underrated and this is the piece that gets Kevin Mallon and the Aradias in the pit rather than just piano. The cast includes Valérie Bélanger, Marjorie Maltais and Alexander Dobson.
- The season finishes up with Mussorgsky’s epic Khovanshchina, presumably in much reduced form. Voicebox:OIC Sunday afternoons rarely run much over two hours and Khovanshchina is well over three. The soloists include Emilia Boteva, Andrey Andreychik and Dion Mazerolle with Narmina Afandiyeva at the piano.
All performances are at 2.30pm in the St. Lawrence Centre’s Jane Mallett Theatre.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1983 production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov for Covent Garden was restaged in 1990 by the Kirov in St. Petersburg with, Tarkovsky by this time no more, Stephen Lawless directing. It being Tarkovsky I had expectations of something really interesting (perhaps a four hour silent opera?) but it’s not really. In fact Tarkovsky seems to have been intimidated by the form or foiled by its technical limitations into producing a lavish but ultimately not very consequential production. The AMOP crowd would thoroughly approve I think.
For those of you who were wondering “whatever happened to Opera 5?” they are back, and with some pizzazz (and possibly some pizza). Their upcoming show is an “immersive” version of the Johann Strauss classic Die Fledermaus. In act 2 patrons will be encouraged to interact; to dance with the cast, gamble at the tables, snort coke with Prince Orlofsky (ok I made that up) etc. The cast includes Michael Barrett, Rachel Krehm, Julie Ludwig and Erin Lawson with drag queen Pearle Harbour as Ivan and emceeing. Aria Umezawa and Jessica Derventzis direct with Patrick Hansen conducting. It plays at 8pm on June 8th to 11th at 918 Bathurst Street. Tickets at www.opera5.ca.
British baritone Christopher Purves was the lunch special at the Four Seasons Centre today. Along with the amazing Liz Upchurch he gave us a most enjoyable program of Handel, Duparc and Mussorgsky. The two Handel arias were drawn from Handel’s two very different takes on Ovid’s Acis and Galatea. The first from the later (1718) English version “I rage, I melt, I burn!… O ruddier than the cherry tree” is a mostly comic furioso recitative and aria sung with great drama and not a little comedy by Chris but it was rather eclipsed by the next number taken from the earlier (1708) Aci, Galatea e Polifemo. Polyphemus’ aria “Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori” is just nuts but very beautiful. It ranges from the D below the bass staff to the A above it and is a continuous series of insane intervals accompanied by a really simple and very beautiful piano part. It’s amazing anybody can sing it all let alone as well as it was done here.
Calixto Bieito’s production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov recorded at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2013 is, unsurprisingly, strong stuff. The central concept is that the political classes “don’t give a fig” for ordinary people and that’s as true , or truer, now than in early modern Russia. In such a world, where the people are manipulated into acting as their “betters” demand, is it possible for a person like Boris, who has risen to supreme power through manipulation and violence, to have a conscience?
The opening concert of Off Centre Music Salon’s season was a programme of Russian romantic and post romantic works, songs and piano pieces, entitled Russia Cast Adrift. The first half of the afternoon was devoted to the sort of songs that explain why “smert” is one of about six Russian words that I recognize. It kicked off with a Rachmaninoff prelude played with vigour by William Leathers before going into a series of songs by Sviridov, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Glière, Arensky and Mussorgsky. The singing was shared by soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett with Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at the piano.
There may be cheerful songs in Russian but I’m not sure I have ever heard one. Certainly there were none on offer at the Four Seasons Centre today when Ekaterina Gubanova and Rachel Andrist offered up a recital of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky works. There’s a reason why one of three Russian words I can recognize is “Schmert”. Depressing as the texts may have been these were truly wonderful performances. Gubanova has a dark, very Slavic colour though she can brighten it when she chooses and she’s utterly fearless singing with great passion and, yes, there was a high C in there.
Last night at Walter Hall, as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Chris Maltman and Graham Johnson gave a recital that explored the experience of war through song. It was a long and varied programme with twenty two songs in four languages commemorating most of the great empires that went to war in 1914 though many of the songs were from earlier periods. At the core of the programme were early 20th century settings of English pastoral poems. Butterworth’s settings of Houseman were there but, sneakily, we got Somervell’s much less well known setting of Think no more lad. In a similar vein there were Gurney and Finzi. The Americas were represented in a characteristically rambunctious Ives setting of a horribly jingoistic McCrae poem; He is there. McCrae may be the only well known war poet who managed to survive until 1918 without developing any sense of irony. Beyond the English speaking world there were songs by Mussorgsky, Mahler, Fauré, Schumann, Wolf and Poulenc.