Palej premiere

This one’s a bit different.  COSA (Centre for Opera Study and Appreciation) have a stream of a new opera by Norbert Palej coming up.  It’s called The Art of Love and it’s drawn from various works by Ovid including the obvious one but also, as best I can tell, Medicamina Faciei Femineae and Metamorphoses.  It’s sung in Latin (there are subtitles for those whose Latin is less than fluent) with animations by Sean Stanley.  There are two overlapping casts with some very decent singers including Ryan Downey and Alex Hajek.  It’s playing tonight and the next three nights at 7.30pm with alternating casts.


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Tapestry Briefs: Winter Shorts

The current Tapestry Briefs show presents work from the 2016 LibLab.  It’s all new and, inevitably, very mixed.  It started very strongly with a scene, The Call of the Light (Imam Habibi/Bobby Theodore) based on the 1984 attack on the Quebec National Assembly.  The combination of an assault rifle carrying camo clad Alex Dobson , the rest of the cast (Jacquie Woodley, Keith Klassen, Erica Iris) writhing on the floor and dissonant extended piano from Michael Shannon was genuinely disturbing.  Having a gun pointed straight at you from a few feet away doesn’t happen often at the opera.

Keith Klassen and Jacqueline Woodley_PURSUIT_photobyDahliaKatz-5278

Keith Klassen and Jacqueline Woodley

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Cloud Light

Cloud Light CMCCD 22315 Cover Canadian Art Song Project has just issued its second CD; Cloud Light.  It’s a collection of four contrasting works by Polish-Canadian composer Norbert Palej.  The first, Three Norwegian Songs (2011) was composed for baritone Peter McGillivray, who sings them here. The settings are of English translations of Norwegian texts.  Maybe it’s because the texts are translations or maybe because this seems the most American/Broadway inflected piece on the disk I found it the least effective but, as we shall see, it has serious competition.  In any event Peter sings it very well even when it goes cruelly high. Continue reading

A new program from the COC

MAO_0790aThis just in from frequent Operaramblings commenter and COC Adult Education Programs Manager Gianmarco Segato.  The COC is launching Opera Insights, a series of free adult education events linked to the productions of the 2015/16 season.  It’s a pretty broad range of programming ranging from scholarly discussions on reconstructing the score of Maometto II and the history of the ball gown to Traviata singalongs and Carmen themed dance lessons.  Participants include composers Barbara Monk-Feldman and Norbert Palej, conductors Johannes Debus, Harry Bicket and Sandra Horst and singers like Christine Goerke plus, inevitably, lots of academics (we love them really we do).  Looks like a lot of fun.  The events are all free but are ticketed.  Full details can be found here.

East o’the Sun and West o’the Moon

Norbert Palej’s new piece East o’the Sun and West o’the Moon, commissioned by the Canadian Children’s Opera Company opened at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront last night.  It’s based on a Norwegian folk tale and tells the story of a girl, Rose, who does a deal with a magic white bear to feed her starving family.  The bear, of course, is really a prince who has been cursed by a witch.  Rose tricks the witch and marries the prince.  There are also trolls.  Lots of them.

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Talking bears

Joel IvanyToronto Wunderkind director Joel Ivany is directing the premier of Norbert Palej’s EAST o’ the SUN and WEST o’ the MOON for the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.  Operaramblings took the opportunity to ask Joel a few questions about his motivation for doing the piece and how directing young people differed (or didn’t) from his other directorial endeavours.  Here’s what we got: Continue reading

New song commission from CASP

News just in that the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP) has commissioned Montreal-based composer Ana Sokolović to write a new song cycle. The new work is being composed for piano and a quartet of singers from the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio. The world premiere will form part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre and will form part of the company’s celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017 (along, it is said, with a revival of Harry Somer’s Louis Riel).

The new song cycle from Sokolović adds to previous works commissioned by CASP include Sewing the Earthworm (2011) by Brian Harman (review), Cloud Light (2012) by Norbert Palej, Extreme Positions and Birefingence (2013) by Brian Current (review), and Moths (2013) by James Rolfe. Other commissions that have been announced and are currently in development include new works by Peter Tiefenbach (2014) and Marjan Mozetich (2014).

Photo credit Alain Lefort

Canadian Art Song Project again

Today saw the premiere of the Canadian Art Song Project’s second annual commission (My review of last year’s effort).  This time it was Norbert Palej’s Small Songs; a setting of ten texts from Jan Zwicky’s Thirty-seven Small Songs & Thirteen Silences.  It’s an ambitious piece drawing on a wide range of vocal and piano colours and occasionally on non-standard technique.  That said, although sounding like a work from the 21st century it’s really quite accessible to anyone with any familiarity at all with modern art song.  Some passages were really lovely.  I especially like the haunting and clever setting of Small song on being lost which evokes the loneliness of the sea and the self.  The piece that followed; Small song for the moon in the daytime was also rather special ending movingly on “the wind is   nowhere   to be found”.  All in all, great integration of text and music as art song should be.  The composer “warned” us up front that the music was extremely difficult to perform because he was writing it for two very fine musicians.  They didn’t disappoint.  Tenor Lawrence Wiliford used all of his range; dynamically, colourwise and pitchwise to give a very text sensitive reading and he was very well accompanied by long time collaborator Steven Philcox at the piano.

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The French connection

Today’s free lunchtime concert in the RBA was given by Topher Mokrzewski wearing his pianist hat; as opposed to his conductor, accompanist, music director, vocal coach or tap dancing hat.


Photo credit: Chris Hutcheson

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