Paul Curran’s production of Tosca, seen in 2008 and 2012, opened at the COC yesterday afternoon. It didn’t feel like a routine revival production of a warhorse. In fact it felt much fresher and focussed than last time around. Perhaps Mr. Curran, who is again directing, found some new insights or, more likely, the chemistry between the principals is better this time. The result is a very satisfactory show.
The Christina and Louis Quilico Awards are a singing competition for members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. This year’s edition took place early yesterday evening in the RBA. Only five members of the Ensemble Studio were competing. Megan Quick and Sam Pickett were not for reasons that I don’t think were announced and Aaron Sheppard was sick. So it was a pretty brief affair. The format as usual was that each contestant offered three arias and got to sing the one of their choice with the judges choosing which of the other two they should sing.
Schubert’s Winterreise is sometimes described as the Everest of lieder singing and, as such, is something of a rite of passage for baritones. It’s much rarer to hear it sung by a soprano but today, on a day when there was more snow in Toronto than one encounters these days on the Hillary step, Adrianne Pieczonka, accompanied by Rachel Andrist, offered it up in the intimate Mazzoleni Hall. It took me two or three songs to get into it. The colours of the soprano voice are so not baritonal that the music sounded unfamiliar and disconcerting. By Der Lindenbaum though I was won over. Here was singing of a limpid beauty few baritones could match and from then on I was revelling in the new perspectives that hearing a soprano sing this music brings. I think it was greatly helped by Adrianne’s approach which definitely favoured bringing out the drama and the emotion of the text rather than wallowing in beautiful tone. That was there when she wanted it but there was much else besides. It was an emotional roller coaster from the (relative) optimism of Die Post through to the devastating last couple of numbers. By the end of Der Leiermann I was a puddle but possibly not quite as damp and deep as the critic sitting next to me (whatever Twitter might report). Rachel’s work at the piano was equally illuminating. This is a show they need to take to a much larger audience.
Late notice I guess but Adrianne Pieczonka and Rachel Andrist are performing Schubert’s Winterreise at Mazzoleni Hall this afternoon. It’s sold out anyway. Later, at 7.30pm, UoT Early Music is presenting a concert version of Purcell’s Fairy Queen in Trinity College Chapel. Tomorrow at the relatively unusual time of 5.30pm the members of the Ensemble Studio will be competing for the Quilico awards. That’s in the RBA and free. Also in the RBA, at noon on Tuesday, you can catch Andrew Haji singing a very varied Valentine’s Day program. Then on Thursday, same time, same place, Elena Tsallagova, Pamina in the COC’s current Magic Flute, presents a Russian and French program. The Magic Flute and Götterdämmerung continue at the COC.
Patrice Chéreau’s last major opera production was of Strauss’ Elektra for the 2013 Aix-en-Provence Festival where it was recorded. It later appeared with a different cast at the Met and was broadcast in HD but that performance has not yet been released on disk. It’s a very good example of Chéreau’s work. The towering, blocky sets recall his From the House of the Dead and are equally dark and grey. The interest is all in the characters.
Fidelio is an interesting piece. The music is great and it has a powerful, very straightforward, plot. There are no convoluted subplots here. But there is a lot of spoken dialogue which slows things down. Is it necessary? Claus Guth doesn’t think so and in his 2015 Salzburg production he replaces the dialogue with ambient noise and also doubles up Leonora and Don Pizarro with silent actor “shadows”; the former using sign language in the manner of the narrator character in Guth’s Messiah. It works remarkably well. The ambient noise sections are quite disturbing and the “shadows” add some depth, especially the frantic signing in the final scene. Perhaps worth noting that the “noise” contains a lot of very low bass and precise spatial location. It may need a pretty good sound system to have the intended effect.
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.