I found out quite late about OPUS Chamber Music and their current short concert series so I was only able to attend the last show on Sunday evening at Grace Church on-the-Hill. Pianist Kevin Ahfat is the driving force behind these concerts and he was able to marshal an impressive line up including recent Indianopolis Violin Competition gold medallist Serena Huang.
The first half of the programme was essentially French. Brannon Cho joined Kevin for Poulenc’s Sonata for Cello and Piano. It has a lively first movement with jazzy dance rhythms and lots of interaction between the players which showed excellent mutual understanding. The second movement is more limpid and languorous and drew some rather elegantly beautiful sounds from both cello and piano. The third movement is marked “Ballabile” which was new to me. Apparently it refers to a dance by the corps de ballet. I can see that. It’s fast and intricate with lots of pizzicato from the cello. The finale is almost like back to the beginning with more playful interaction between the instruments. Lovely playing in both the livelier and the more lyrical passages with an appropriate sense of Frenchness. Continue reading →
Toronto Summer Music opened on Thursday night at Koerner Hall with a concert called Inspirations featuring chamber and vocal music drawn from folk influences.It began with Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style Op. 102 for piano and cello played by Rachael Kerr and Matthew Zalkind.The folk roots are pretty clear here and since the pieces were written with amateur performance in mind those roots aren’t over elaborated and the result is satisfying.Not that they got an amateurish performance.Quite the opposite.
March is looking a bit thin right now. Both UoT Opera and the Glenn Gould School have shows though. From the 12th to the 15th in the MacMilan Theatre (7.30pm, Sunday 2.30pm) the university is doing Jonathan Dove’s Mansfield Park in a production by Tim Albery. I’m not familiar with this work but generally I’ve been very impressed with Dove’s vocal music. Casting etc is here. On the 18th and 20th the GGS is putting on Ravel’s L’heure espagnole and Puccini’s Suor Angelica which is certainly an unusual pairing. The double bill plays at Koerner Hall at 7.30pm. Casting and creative team details are here. UoT also have a show on the 27th at 5pm in Walter Hall called Parlami d’Amore. In non university gigs, Tapestry Songbook X is at the Ernest Balmer Studio on the 20th at 8pm.
In free events there are a couple of noon hour concerts in the RBA. On the 17th the Ensemble Studio have a March Break “Opera for All Ages” concert and on the 31st transgender soprano Brianna Sinclair is appearing. And of course there’s Opera Pub in its usual time and place on the 5th.
The 2018 Wirth Song Prize winner tenor Marcel d’Entremont gave the customary recital in the RBA at noon yesterday accompanied by Dakota Scott-Digout. It was an interesting choice of material; nicely balanced between old and new worlds. He started with Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaires grecques. I guess these set the tone for the recital. Marcel has a very operatic voice. It’s big with quite a lot of vibrato. The Ravel was loud but nicely characterized and sung in perfect French. He followed up with a rousing. but not overly subtle, Kuda, kuda. I was beginning to find things a bit one dimensional.
The line up for Voicebox: Opera in Concert has been announced for the 2019/20 season. There are four shows:
The season opens on Sunday, October 20, 2019, with a double bill by Maurice Ravel, L’enfant et les sortileges and L’heure Espagnole. It’s a common pairing and often a very funny one. It’s piano score with Suzy Smith playing., The cast includes Holly Chaplin, Anika-France Forget, Danlie Rae Acebuque and Joshua Clemenger.
Sunday, December 1st, 2019 sees some welcome Janáček. We don’t see near enough of his work in Toronto. This time its Katya Kabanova. It’s not the jolliest of pieces but it’s musically and dramatically top drawer. The cast includes Lynn Isnar, Emilia Boteva, Michael Barrett and Cian Horrobin with Jo Greenaway at the piano.
There’s a remount of Charles M. Wilson’s Kamouraska, premiered by OiC in 2009, on Sunday, February 16th, 2020. It’s based on Anne Hebert’s novel about a tumultuous love triangle that plays out near a village in Quebec, with tragic consequences. The cast includes Jennifer Taverner , Aaron Dimoff and Matt Chittick. Robert Cooper leads the orchestra, cast and chorus.
The season closes on Sunday, April 5, 2020, with snobbery with violets in the form of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. The cast includes Sally Dibblee, Romulo Delgado aand Geneviève Lévesque Narmina Afandiyeva at the piano.
Last night saw the first concert of this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival. The theme was “Beyond Borders” with most of the works presented; a mixture of piano, violin and vocal, having been influenced by other cultures/places or written in exile.
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA was a song recital with an Oriental(ist) theme by polyglot soprano Miriam Khalil and pianist Topher Mokrzewski. It kicked off with the two Suleika songs by Schubert to texts by Marianne von Willimer. For my taste Miriam’s voice and treatment of the songs was decidedly on the dramatic side. It was interesting and there’s no doubting the commitment but it’s not my favourite way to hear Schubert. It was all uphill from there though. Ravel’s Shéherazade; Debussy inspired music to texts by Tristan Klingsor, was given an equally dramatic treatment, and Miriam is very dramatic in both voice and body language, but here it worked for me, especially the passionate invocation of the invented East in Asie.
Yesterday’s Mazzoleni Songmasters recital featured the relatively unusual combination of soprano Monica Whicher accompanied by Judy Loman on harp. It was a very well constructed and executed afternoon of song. Each set had something to offer.Th first set was of English songs of the 16th and 17th centuries including the very lovely O Death Rock Me Asleep attributed, almost certainly inaccurately, to Anne Boleyn. All very touching and harp seeming very appropriate for songs which were likely intended for lute accompaniment.
Lauren Eberwein and Rachel Kerr put on a rather different show in the RBA at lunchtime. The musical component consisted of Ravel’s Jeu d’eaux and Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi. The surprise was that Lauren painted on a canvas on the floor throughout the performance. She brought on two palettes of acrylics and used her hands and feet to create a large abstract on the broad theme of “water”. Needless to say, she ended up covered in paint.
Yesterday’s concert in the RBA was dedicated to the late Stuart Hamilton, founding director of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Current members, mezzo Emily D’Angelo and baritone Bruno Roy, each gave us two sets of French songs accompanied respectively by Hyejin Kwon and Stéphane Mayer. Ms. D’Angelo gave us Débussy’s Chansons de Bilitis and the curiously Débussy like Trois Mélodies by Messiaen. Both sets are quite meditative and impressionistic and Ms. D’Angelo’s very beautiful voice suited them well. There’s more there than beauty of tone. She’s showing some interesting, very mezzoish, colours in the voice now and there’s clearly plenty of power in reserve as she showed on a couple of occasions. It’s so easy to forget how young she is when a performance is this accomplished. Ms. Kwon was a sympathetic accompanist.
And so to the boys who gave us Poulenc’s La fraîcheur et le feu and Ravel’s Don Quichotte à Dulcinée. The Poulenc piece rather races along with the piano part, impressively played by Mayer, often much more interesting than the vocal line. Roy was at his best in the more hectic passages where his diction and command of French were at a premium. When the music became more expansive he didn’t quite seem able to expand with it; the voice lacking bloom in both upper and lower registers and with no real sense of some underlying power. This was more of a handicap in the Don Quichotte songs. Roy managed some decent physical and vocal acting, especially in the drinking song, but there just wasn’t enough heft to put in the swagger required in these pieces.
Prior to the performances, the COC’s Janet Stubbs made a short speech in memory of Stuart which managed, in a very brief span, to convey both the impact he had on the Canadian and wider opera scene and a sense of his more endearing eccentricities.