Last night saw the first of two performances of Haydn’s rarely performed 1791 work Orfeo: L’anima del filosofo. I know how much effort and indeed passion went into creating this production and the singing is pretty good. I wish I could say I enjoyed it but I can’t. There were just too many issues.
Let’s start with the opera itself. Maybe it was never completely finished as it was shut down by the authorities during rehearsals in London. Maybe that’s why it feels horribly unbalanced. The first half (two acts) tell us of Eurydice being betrothed, against her will, to her father, King Creonte’s, rival Arideo. She runs off into the forest where she is about to be devoured by beasts when the news is brought to Orfeo who then sings at length before “rushing” off to rescue Euridice.
Confluence Concerts’ show last night at Heliconian Hall was titled A Woman’s Voice. It was, after a fashion, a CD release concert in two halves. The first half featured music by Alice Ping Yee Ho from the album A Woman’s Voice and featuring the same performers; Vania Chan, Katy Clark, Alex Hetherington, Maeve Palmer and Jialiang Zhu. I’ve already reviewed the album and I don’t think last night changed my opinion much so I’ll not do a detailed rundown. What I can say is that last night it was mostly opera excerpts; Lesson of Da Ji, Chinatown, The Imp of the Perverse, and a live concert gave an opportunity for a bit of staging which was definitely an enhancement, especially in The Imp of the Perverse scene. “Café Chit Chat” and “Black” also benefitted from visual interaction between the singers. I like the CD a lot. Getting a chance to see some of the music live was great. Continue reading →
On May 26th and 27th in the MacMillan Theatre there’s a chance to see Haydn’s rarely performed Orfeo: L’anima del filosofo. It was composed for London in 1791 but was shut down during rehearsals because the Lord Chamberlain’s office thought it subversively supportive of enlightenment values at a time when Pitt’s government was cracking down brutally on pro French Revolutionary sentiment in the UK.
It finally made it to the stage in 1951 in Florence with Maria Callas as Euridice. It’s had a few runs in Europe since, including Cecilia Bartoli’s Covent Garden debut, but can scarcely be called a “staple of the repertoire”. Now it’s being given its North American premiere by a collaboration between the music schools at University of Toronto and McGill University led by Dr. Caryl Clarke. Continue reading →
A Woman’s Voice is a record with 84 minutes of music for female voices and piano by Alice Ping Yee Ho. It’s a mixture of songs and excerpts from operas and a plkay. All but one track feature Toronto based artists who include no less than three Norcop prize winners. Overall, I found the songs more fun to listen to than the opera excerpts though they were interesting in their own way too and I’m seriously intrigued by a couple of them that I haven’t seen but now want to.
Tony Palmer’s 2006 documentary about the Salzburg Festival is over three hours long and uncomfortable to watch in the way the best films are. He combines interviews with performance and other documentary footage to extremely good effect to go beyond telling the “Salzburg story ” to explore fundamental questions of the arts and the state and the very purpose of art.
UoT Opera’s fall production is Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro which opened last night at the MacMillan Theatre. It’s a period production directed by Michael Patrick Albano set in the “Opera 18th Century”; more Chatsworth than palace near Seville, but it looks pretty, the action is skilfully composed and the physical comedy works.
The Halloween concert by the UoT Contemporary Music Ensemble in Walter Hall was fun. Unfortunately I was only able to catch the first half which featured Sofia Gubaidulina’s In Erwartung for saxophone quartet and percussion. This was a cool piece making interesting use of the space. It was followed by Robert Paterson’s Closet Full of Demons which is scored for small ensemble plus alarm clocks and jack-in-a-box. Sometimes I feel I should listen to music like this more often (and sometimes I don’t!). The main reason for being there though was to see Maeve Palmer and the Ensemble do Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre. I wasn’t disappointed. Clearly tons of work had gone into this and it was much crisper than when I saw it in Barbara Hannigan’s master class a few weeks ago. Maeve really got into character as Gepopo. It was all there. The notes of course but also the keen sense of timing and the ability to convey the paranoia of the character. The Ensemble was well into it too. The bassoon and trombones were ugly. The shouting was convincing.
I wish I had photographs because everyone was in costume not just Maeve. The firs conductor (lorenzo Guggenheim) appeared as a back to front neon lit Wolfman and the second; Wallace Halladay, as a reversed skeleton. The Ensemble included Superwoman among others and Maeve was a sort of leather mini-skirted SS officer. Much fun!
If anyone does have photos I could use please drop me a line.
The students of the post graduate program at UoT Opera were on show in the RBA yesterday with a show made up of staged opera excerpts curated and directed by Michael Patrick Albano. It’s right at the beginning of the academic year and these sorts of concerts are a bit of a calibration exercise for those of us who follow the progress of young singers. The starting point this year is decidedly high.
There was a two part session with Barbara Hannigan at UoT yesterday.The first part consisted of an open rehearsal/masterclass for the Contemporary Ensemble conducted by Wallace Halladay with Maeve Palmer as soloist of Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre.The piece is a mash up of three areas for the character Gepopo from the opera Le Grand Macabre. The basic premise is that Gepopo, the head of the secret police, is trying to warn her boss that the Earth is about to be hit by a comet. Unfortunately Gepopo has spent so long in the underworld of spooks and spies that she’s utterly paranoid and can only speak in broken fragments and secret codes. It’s weird and surreal and often funny in a disturbing way. It’s a piece very much associated with Hannigan who has sung it many times and worked on it with the composer.
So back to Walter Hall at 4pm for the last of the Regen concerts featuring song. This time Renee Fajardo and Jinhee Park kicked things off with a very fine set starting with Herr Schumann’s sinister Die Soldat and Frau Schumann’s Die Lorelei. This was all smoothly and elegantly sung bar a slight tendency to push high notes. There was some very impressive pianism here too. The set concluded with Schoenberg’s Galathea; a bold and interesting choice, where Renee managed to create an almost cabaret timbre without ever sacrificing accuracy. Nicely done!