Opera Lafayette’s March 2020 production of Beethoven’s 1805 precursor to Fidelio; Leonore, was reviewed by Patrick Dillon in the Summer 2020 edition of Opera Canada. It’s now been released on DVD and Blu-ray. Watching it on video I think tends to highlight further the weaknesses described by Patrick. It can’t seem to make up it’s mind what it is; musically or dramatically. Is it a Singspiel or something grander? The dramatic focus drifts, somewhat bathetically, from the domestic comedy of the Leonore/Marcellina/Jacquino love triangle to the “faithful and virtuous wife” theme to, almost, entering more involved philosophical/political territory before relapsing into a sort of cop out ending. The (very real) strengths of the final version of Fidelio are not much in evidence here.
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Looking ahead to September
September starts the slow ramp up to the new season. The first thing in my calendar is Mysterious Barricades on September 14th from 1pm to 2pm in Walter Hall. This is a series of coast to coast, dawn to dusk concerts in aid of Suicide Awareness. Russell Braun, Monica Whicher and Nathalie Paulin are all involved. It’s free but ticketed. Check the link for details.
Today saw a dawn to dusk livestream of concerts from St. John’s to Victoria; presented as Mysterious Barricades, aimed at raising awareness about suicide, suicide prevention and mental health generally. I doubt there’s anybody whose life has not been touched by this issue, certainly not mine. Anyway I made it out to Walter Hall for Toronto’s sixty minute contribution organized by Monica Whicher. It was heartening to see so many artists of the highest calibre making their talents available for the cause. So, not a review but heartfelt thanks to John Gregg, Russell Braun, Carolyn Maule, Nathalie Paulin, Norine Burgess, Judy Loman, Marie Bédard, Steven Philcox, Turkwaz, Andrea Levinson and the Mysterious Barricades Toronto Chorale and, of course, Monica for organizing. One day perhaps…
It’s September and the long, slow awakening after the annual aestivation begins. There’s not a lot on yet but what there is is interesting. The middle of the month sees Native Earth’s production of I Call myself Princess at the Aki Studio; previews from 9th to 12th September with official opening on the 13th and then shows until the end of the month. My interview with playwright Jani Lauzon is here. Also opening on the 13th is Tapestry Briefs at the Ernest Balmer Studio. Hear the product of the LibLab, hear Stephanie Tritchew, Teiya Kasahara, Peter McGillivray and Keith Klassen and eat tapas. It runs until the 16th.
Welcome and Adieu
The first concert in this season’s Mazzoleni Songmasters series featured sopranos Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher with pianists Peter Tiefenbach and Robert Kortgaard in an eclectic program of English and fFrench songs on the theme of coming and going. First up was a set of Purcell songs which is always going to score brownie points with me. I’ve never heard Sound the Trumpet or Be Welcome, Then, Great Sir sung by female voices so that was interesting. The duet was really nice and Nathalie sang quite beautifully in the welcome ode. Monica followed up with fine versions of Dear Pretty Youth and An Evening Hymn. Continue reading
The Mazzoleni Songmasters series opens this afternoon at 2pm in, surprise, Mazzoleni Hall at the conservatory. Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher present Welcome and Adieu; a program of English and French songs and duets. Collaborative pianists are Robert Kortgaard and Peter Tiefenbach.
Tuesday at noon in the RBA sees the students of UoT Opera present an all Mozart program. It’s semi staged and the program is duets and ensemble numbers so not your usual fare. Free of course but probably one one will need to arrive early for.
Norma and Ariodante continue at the COC as does Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier.
The Royal Conservatory announced the concert line up for the 2016/17 season last night. As usual it’s a very eclectic mix with over 100 concerts in a rather staggering variety of genres. The one loose them is the Canada Sesquicentennial with 70% or so of the line up having some CanCon. Here are the highlights for the classical vocal music fan.
Koerner Hall will feature recitals by Deb Voigt (November 11th) and Natalie Dessay (May 2nd) plus Phillippe Jaroussky with Les Violins du Roy (April 13th).
The GGS fall opera is Viardot’s Cendrillon with Peter Tiefenbach as music director in Mazzoleni Hall (November 18th and 19th). The big spring production, at Koerner, will be Piccini’s La Cecchina with Les Dala conducting (March 15th and 17th). No word on directors yet. There’s also the GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall on February 4th.
Russia Cast Adrift
The opening concert of Off Centre Music Salon’s season was a programme of Russian romantic and post romantic works, songs and piano pieces, entitled Russia Cast Adrift. The first half of the afternoon was devoted to the sort of songs that explain why “smert” is one of about six Russian words that I recognize. It kicked off with a Rachmaninoff prelude played with vigour by William Leathers before going into a series of songs by Sviridov, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Glière, Arensky and Mussorgsky. The singing was shared by soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett with Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at the piano.
The week in prospect
This afternoon at 3pm, at Trinity St. Paul’s, Off Centre kick off their season, Geoff Sirett, Nathalie Paulin and others offer an all Russian programme.
Super Tuesday is a ridiculously busy day. At noon in the RBA Array Music is presenting Love Shards, a program of music by contemporary women composers. The full programme is here. In the evening Adrianne Pieczonka and Kristina Szabó are singing works by Crumb and Berio at Koerner Hall. There’s also a fundraiser for Opera 5 at The Extension Room. I’m sorry to be missing that one as the last couple have been a blast. Definitely worth going to if you are not going to Koerner.
Thursday there is a PWYC show by UoT Opera at The Black Box Theatre at 7.30pm. Tim Albery and David Fallis, creators of last season’s evocative Last Days, have created The Fatal Gaze, an exploration of the dangers of looking too long or too closely, inspired by the Baroque repertoire. Last days was really good so I have high expectations for this one. It’s also on on Friday.
A Celebration of Canadian Art Song
This year’s new work from the Canadian Art Song Project, Marjan Mozetich’s Enchantments of Gwendolyn, was premiered yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. It’s a setting of four really interesting poems by Gwendolyn MacEwen for mezzo-soprano and piano. The first and last pieces; Sunday Morning Sermon and A Coin for the Ferryman are rather beautifulmeditative pieces and frame the two inner songs nicely. These inner two, for me, was where much of the interest really lay. Waiting for You was a blues inflected number of considerable interest, in some ways recalling Michael Tippett but in others entirely original. The third piece; The Tao of Physics, is a setting of a piece linking sub-atomic physics with the cosmology of The Vedas. That’s not exactly an original idea but it’s always an interesting one to explore and, by accident or design, Mozetich does so in a manner that somewhat recall John Adams’ treatment of the same basic ideas. We get a long, impassioned, vocal line floating over an arpeggiated piano accompaniment. It’s impressive and effective. All four pieces were beautifully performed by Allyson McHardy and Adam Sherkin. McHardy’s warm. dark mezzo seemed perfect for the material and listening was like wallowing in hot chocolate (more lurid similes did suggest themselves but this is a family blog). She can sing the blues too. Who would have thought it.