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!
The last two ReGENERATION concerts featuring song took place in Walter Hall yesterday at 1pm and 4pm. Both featured four singers doing a set with piano, a vocal piece with chamber accompaniment and a chamber piece. All the members of the Artsong Academy programme appeared at least once. First up was tenor Joey Jang with Frances Armstrong at the piano with a set of Schubert and Schumann. He sounded OK, if a bit underpowered, in Liebesbotschaft with its fairly fast rhythmic lines but technical issues showed up in the slower pieces requiring real legato.
TSMF has made some small changes to the line up this year. Instead of the art song component recitals for the academy programme being given together as two concerts they have been spread across four concerts with the balance being made up of chamber music. The first two of the four were yesterday in Walter Hall.
There was no printed programme for the concerts. The singers announced themselves and their accompanists and their material. The last was repeated in the projected surtitles (yeah!) which also provided text and translation for the non-English items (including Scots) but not for songs to English texts. So, mad scribbling was required to get a complete listing and I may have made the odd error.
Barbara Hannigan gave a masterclass for four students last night at Mazzoleni Hall. I’ve been to quite a few masterclasses and it’s the second one of Hannigan’s that I have sat in on. Like everything else she does her teaching style is unique, fascinating, incredibly illuminating and, at the same time, slightly terrifying. Part of me wants to review like an “event” and part of me wants to be very subjective and impressionistic. I think I’m going to do a bit of both.
Adizokan is a collaboration between indigenous production company Red Sky and the TSO. The program last night kicked off with a “sesquie”. This time it was Blood Echo by Carmen Braden. It was about as memorable as most of the sesquies have been. This was followed by Fara Palmer singing her own composition My Roots about the residential school system and cultural survival. It’s in a pop idiom with native drumming and while musically it’s not my thing it had to be there.