I last saw a live show in a theatre on March 13th. Eight months later I’ve watched a lot of web content as well as continuing to review commercial opera recordings. A month ago I wrote in Opera Canada that “there’s no substitute for live” and I stand by that view. I do think though that there’s an opportunity and a need to rethink how opera and song is produced for webstreaming.
This is a bit of a belated plug for Opera 5 and Musique Trois Femmes’ virtual conference Opera Con. It’s on this Friday/Saturday so it’s too late to catch yesterday’s events live but they are all available on demand. There are more events this afternoon and evening where you can participate in the live text chat. All the sessions are on Opera 5’s Youtube channel. It’s mostly younger artists talking about how to make opera more diverse and accessible with everything from opera for younger audiences to whale song to virtual reality. Worth a look.
Eight drinkers singing. Or vice versa. I forget. Anyway, last night’s extravaganza from Tongue in Cheek Productions and Opera5 at Gallery 345 was a blast. The schtick was that eight people got to choose a cocktail and a related song set while the audience could purchase their choice(s) of the said beverages. There was a lot of clowning around and some very good singing all backed up by a very serious looking Trevor Chartrand at the piano. Continue reading →
Staging art song and chamber works happens in Toronto but not a lot. Over the last few years I’ve seen interesting shows from Against the Grain, Collectif and UoT Opera among others. As it’s something I tend to enjoy I was pleased to catch the opening performance of Opera 5’s Hindemith and Shostakovich program; itself the first in a proposed series called Open Chambers.
So here we go with things to look out for in the second half of the month or so. On the 13th Stacie Dunlop and flautist Kelly Zimba are putting on a program of pieces by living American and Canadian composers, including premieres by Toronto composer David Jaeger and the duo HaRebraIN (Anh Phung/Alan Mackie) along with works by Leslie Uyeda, Braxton Blake, Kate Soper and James O’Callaghan. That’s at 8pm at Gallery 345.
From November 15th to December 2nd Red Snow Collective are presenting the world premiere of The Monkey Queen, written by Diana Tso, directed by William Yong, and performed by Diana Tso and Nick Eddie. The production weaves text, movement, visual art and music, and reimagines the ancient tale through the playwright’s own personal journey as a Chinese-Canadian female artist; a sort of Journey to the East if you will. It’s at the Theatre Centre Incubator at 7.30pm.
Opera 5 opened a run of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the Factory Theatre last night. It’s arguably the most conventional thing Opera 5 have done. It’s a (very) mainstream piece. There was no accompanying themed food or drink (a glass of Rotsina?). There was no audience participation. There weren’t even Aria Umezawa’s characteristically minimalist touches. What there was a carefully constructed Barber for reduced forces directed by new Artistic Director Jessica Derventzis and conducted by Evan Mitchell.
June is kind of quiet but first there’s yet another show to mention for the busy last weekend of May. David Fallis is conducting his last performances as Music Director of the Toronto Consort. It’s Monteverdi’s Orfeo and it’s at Trinity St. Pauls at 8pm on the 25th and 26th and 3.30pm on the 27th. Besides David it features Charles Daniels in the title role, Kevin Skelton as Apollo, Laura Pudwell as Messagiera with Jeanne Lamon on first violin plus Montreal’s premier cornetto and sackbut ensemble La Rose des Vents.
There have been quite a few announcements in the last couple of weeks or so. Here’s what’s coming up.
Essential Opera is back after a hiatus. They are doing a single performance of Gianni Schicchi at 3pm on April 22nd at the Toronto Centre for the Arts (the one up near the Arctic Circle). Kevin Mallon conducts the Toronto Orchestra with a really good line up of soloists.
21C is back from May 23rd to 27th with a varied lineup. Perhaps the most interesting concert from a vocal point of view is vocal ensemble Vox Clamantis with violinist and singer Maarja Nuut and electronic music composer Hendrik Kaljujärv in works by Arvo Pärt, David Lang, and Helena Tulve. The concert is presented in partnership with Estonian Music Week and it’s on the 26th at 8pm.
It’s that time of year when one reflects on the good and the not so good. What one would like to see more of and not. What seemed significant about the year. As I look back over my writings for the last twelve months one clear theme stands out, Reconciliation. There was the COC’s very thoughtful and thought provoking remount of Somers’ Louis Riel in April and all the fascinating events that went on around that. There were attempts by the TSO to incorporate Indigenous themes; the Tanya Tagaq concert in March and Adizokan with Red Sky in October. Neither of these quite came off but the intent was good. Then there was a really fine recital of works by Indigenous composers by Marion Newman at the beginning of the year. Then, of course, the Clemence/Current piece Missing, about murdered and missing Indigenous women, which premiered in British Columbia and which I haven’t seen yet but really, really want to. 2017 was also the year when Land Acknowledgements went mainstream in the Toronto arts world. I guess there’s some tokenism here but there does seem to be far more engagement with Reconciliation in the arts world than in, say, the political mainstream which is unfortunate because opera isn’t going to produce clean drinking water. We have to start somewhere I guess.
Opera 5’s double bill of Ethel Smyth one acters, Suffragette, opened last night at Theatre Passe Muraille in productions by Jessica Derventzis. The second piece, The Boatswain’s Mate, was in every way the more successful of the two. It’s a straightforward enough story. Mrs. Waters is a widow and landlord of The Outlaw (renamed in deference to the production’s beer sponsor). She is being very unsuccessfully courted by retired boatswain Harry Benn. Mrs. Waters doesn’t want or need a husband but Benn decides that by enlisting a casual acquaintance, the former soldier Ned Travers, as a fake burglar from whom he can “rescue” the hapless landlady, he can impress her sufficiently. Much mayhem ensues but the upshot is that Mrs. Waters takes a shine to the hunky soldier and they, at least, live happily ever after.