Singing Only Softly

Last night was the last performance at Heliconian Hall of Loose Tea Music Theatre’s double bill of Anne Frank operas.  The first half of the show centred on Grigori Frid’s monodrama for soprano and chamber ensemble (given here in piano score) The Diary of Anne Frank.   It’s a work in 21 scenes of which 15 were performed last night.  For a Soviet work of the 1970s it’s surprisingly modern in style with some interesting music for the piano.  The vocal part though is pretty unsympathetic and although Gillian Grossman managed it pretty well a lot of it lies too high for comfort or even comprehension.

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The Next Wave workshop

Last night, at the Ernest Balmer Studio, we got to see somewhat more developed versions of the works presented earlier in the week in the RBA but this time in staged format.  I’m not sure my opinions changed much as a result though I think I’m even more convinced that here we have five pieces of substance that deserve to be seen in fully realised form.  So, some brief thoughts on each.  Note that, except for Book of Faces we only saw extracts from pieces that are still WIP. Continue reading

Travelogue

Last night was the one of only two chances to see Bicycle Opera Project in Toronto this year.  (The other is tonight).  It was a show in collaboration with Toy Piano Composers’ Collective called Travelogue and featuring four new works around the broad them of travel. The show was run without an interval but with each composer introducing their own work by reading, e.g., post cards from their travels or, hilariously, in the case of the absent Tobin Stokes, recordings of the voicemails he left apologising for not having finished the piece yet.  Staging was, in the BOP way, minimalist but effective.

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Heroes, Gods and Mortals

hymnThe Talisker Players’ latest show is pretty typical of what they do best; partner with some excellent singers and an actor to create an interesting program of words and music on a given theme.  Last night, as the title suggests, the theme was classical mythology; a rich enough seam for almost anything!  Most of the musical works chosen were twentieth century or later with only excerpts from a Pergolesi cantata harking back to an era that drew more heavily on these sources.

The first piece was Alan Hovhaness’ Hercules for soprano and violin performed by Carla Huhtanen and Elizabeth Loewen Andrews.  This was so very Hovhaness; haunting, disturbing and very beautiful.  It seems as rooted in the pre-classical world as the Heroic Age but perhaps that’s just a kind of timelessness.  It’s a perfect fit for Carla and the violin playing was beautiful too.

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Key Characters

battLast night we attended a concert in the relatively new performance space at the Canadian Music Centre.  It’s a very pleasant room, set up for recording, and seating maybe 50.  The program consisted of four recent works by Canadian composers; three short opera scenes for soprano and piano and a piano piece.

 

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