All families, they say, have secrets. Few perhaps are as lurid as what came to light at 29 Kintyre Avenue, Toronto (about 2km from here) in the summer of 2007 when a contractor renovating the house discovered the mummified body of an infant wrapped in a 1925 newspaper. Incredibly, the CBC was able to track down the last surviving member of the household from that era, a 92 year old woman living in a retirement home in up-state New York. Her recollections, which formed the subject of a short two part radio documentary, provided a lot of context and background but few hard facts. Who the baby was and how it came to be under the floorboards remains very much a mystery.
There were crazy choices available to concert goers in Toronto last nigt but enough chose Extensions of Us at the Extension Room (where else) to fill the joint. We were there to see a performance of piano, song and dance provided by the team of baritone turned tenor Adrian Kramer, soprano Lucia Cesaroni, dancers Jennifer Nichols (who also choreographed) and Justin De Bernardi with pianist and music director Maika’i Nash. The complex motivations for the show and the full line up of music is contained in my interview with Adrian and Lucia here.
I spoke earlier today with Lucia Cesaroni and Adrian Kramer (via Skype to the west coast where Lucia is appearing with Pacific Opera Victoria) about their upcoming “recital” Extensions of Us; Melody and Movement at the Extension Room on November 13th. It’s pretty much received wisdom that in Toronto the traditional art song recital is dying or maybe already dead. Certainly audiences have declined and the format seems unable to draw the younger audience, even of opera goers. I asked Lucia and Adrian about the motivation and inspiration for their show and also asked them to tell me a little more about what we are going to see and hear.
Opera 5’s latest show presents two rarely seen French one act operas. First up was Reynaldo Hahn’s 1897 work L’île du rêve. It’s one of those French officer falls in love with beautiful sixteen year old girl on tropical island and then “duty” calls and he dumps her and she dies of a broken heart pieces. The only twist is that here he offers to take her back to France but the ruling princess advises her that, away from the island, she will lose her charms and he’ll come to despise her so she doesn’t. A touch of French worldliness colouring this rather overdone plot device perhaps? The staging, by Aria Umezawa, is fairly simple though clearly a lot of thought went into how to make the intimate scenes between the principals work. There are also some rather beautiful projections involved.
So, after the rather scattered events of the summer last night’s fundraiser for Opera 5 at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu felt like the start of a new season. It was well attended and organised in an intriguing and fun format. Basically, Team Day and Team Night were competing to see who could raise the most money. There were four rounds in which a singer from each team presented an aria, song or MT number. The one with the most pledges got to sing his or her “show off” aria. For an additional donation, the loser got to do the same. Given that some of the city’s best young singers were performing it was to be expected that it was a good show.
It’s World Pride Week in Toronto and as far as I know Tamar Iveri isn’t in town. What is, is the Toronto premier of When the Sun Comes Out by Leslie Uyeda and Rachel Rose presented by Queer Innovative Theatre; a group of LGBTTIQQ2SA (WTF BBQ!) performers. Unsurprisingly the piece treats of same sex relationships. It’s a love triangle with a twist. Solana (Teiya Kasahara) is a foot loose wandering lesbian who has fallen in love with a married woman, Lilah (Stephanie Yelovich) who, unfortunately, lives in a dystopia where same sex relationships are a capital offence. Their relationship, and their lives, are threatened by Lilah’s jealous husband Javan (Keith Lam). But he too has a secret in his past. They also have a daughter who neither will give up making simple resolution of the relationship issues impossible.
Leslie Uyeda’s opera, When the Sun Comes Out, which premiered at Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival last year is coming to Toronto. It will be given in concert performance at the Ernest Balmer Studio at the Distillery on June 26th and 27th. Set in an imaginary country called Fundamentalia, a country where violation of gender roles is punishable by death, When the Sun Comes Out is the story of a love affair between two women, Lilah, a young, sheltered and wealthy married mother, and Solana, a gender outlaw and rebellious outsider just passing through as she’s passed through so many other countries in her restless, futile quest for happiness. In a land where love between women is punishable by death, Lilah and Solana fall in love but their affair is discovered by Lilah’s enraged and unpredictable husband, Javan.
Ensemble Studio graduate Teiya Kasahara, who premiered the role of Solana is joined by Hamilton based soprano Stephanie Yelovich, soprano, who will play the role of Lilah. Keith Lam, baritone, will play the role of Javan. Opera 5’s Maika’i Nash will act as musical director and pianist. Continue reading
Casting details for Opera 5’s Halloween themed show, Requiescat in Pace, have been announced. The singing line up is soprano Lucia Cesaroni, American baritone and recent Tanglewood fellow David Tinervia and, making a welcome return to Toronto, baritone Adrian Kramer.
So Toronto’s weather took a weird twist pushing the Humidex into the 40s just in time for the Opera Five movie themed fundraiser at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu last night. And some people still managed to wear suits and ties and stuff. Made of sterner stuff than me I tell you. And even more props to the ladies who were sporting Rosemarie’s creations. They looked great but some of them must have been hell in the heat.
It was an interesting format with seven singers and two pianists appearing in various combinations and guests having an opportunity to sponsor a singer to sing their “feature” aria. It was fun and there were some fine singers on display. Two I’ve seen and enjoyed in the past were baritone Geoffrey Sirett and coloratura soprano Teiya Kasahara. Both were on good form with some fine Escamillo from Geoffrey and the mad scene from Lucia from Teiya in a rather good arrangement for voice, flute and piano. The other five were new to me but I’d happily go see any of them. Favourite moments for me would be some fine Carmen from the unpronounceable Olenka Harasymowycz (who looks disturbingly like Maria Ewing), a very cute “Poor Wandering One” from Caitlin Wood and a very fine “Ebben…” (from Catalani’s La Wally) from Calgary’s Krista de Silva. Accompaniment was from music director Mai Nash and Jo Greenaway on piano with flautist Amelia Lyon.
So, a fun event which seemed to be raising quite a bit of much needed cash. The first show it will be helping fund is In Pace Requiescat; a trio of one act operas based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. There will be The Cask of Amontillado by Daniel Pinkham, La Chute de la Maison d’Usher by Claude Debussy and the world première of The Masque of the Red Death by Cecilia Livingston. Performances will be at the Arts and letters Club on Elm Street on the 27th, 30th and 31st of October. Tickets are available from 05inpace.eventbrite.ca and are $30 ($25 concessions).
Last night Opera Five staged a double bill of two one act Spanish operas from the first quarter of the twentieth century. The first was de Falla’s El retablo de maese Pedro. This was written as a puppet opera blending a chivalric tale about the days of Charlemagne with an intervention by an increasingly angry Don Quixote. Structurally it’s an interesting piece with the story being told to a quite simple vocal line by the soprano (Rachel Krehm) playing the puppet master’s boy with interruptions by her boss (Conrad Siebert) and, increasingly, by the one man audience, Don Quixote (Giovanni Spanu). In between the action is acted out by shadow puppets accompanied by a a rather lush “soundtrack”. Finally Don Quixote loses patience with the whole thing and tears down the set before going on a rant about the virtues of knights errant and himself in particular. Staged as a sort of children;s game by director Aria Umezawa, it played very well to this company’s strengths. It was well sung, clever, funny, irreverent and enormously enjoyable. Music director Maika’i Nash once again did that thing I find incredible,m impersonating a whole orchestra on piano, this time with some help from Conrad Siebert on various percussion instruments.