Soundstreams last night presented an intriguing double bill of works in Indigenous languages on Indigenous themes at, appropriately, the Daniels Spectrum. First up was Pimoteewin; music by Melissa Hui, words by Tomson Highway. This piece uses English narration with the singing in Cree. It tells the story of the Trickster and the Eagle going to find out where people go when they die. To quote him “Why are my people always disappearing like this?” The Trickster’ tries unsuccessfully to bring the spirits back to the land of the living and finally realises that that’s not such a good idea. Musically it had almost a liturgical or meditative quality with a lot of fairly hushed choral singing behind strong solo performances by Bud Roach and Melody Courage.
David Fallis’ last show after 28 years as Artistic Director of the Toronto Consort is, perhaps appropriately, the earliest opera in the repertoire; Monteverdi’s Orfeo. The first performance of three was last night at Trinity St. Paul’s. It’s a concert performance with surtitles and some interesting orchestration. The expected strings and woodwinds are supplemented here by the sackbuts and cornettos of Montreal based La Rose des Vents as well as triple harp and an assortment of keyboards including, I think, two different organs. Continue reading →
This review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.
This recording contains the solo works from Sances’ fourth book of songs plus the slightly better known chaconne Accenti queruli. They are all sung by tenor Bud Roach accompanying himself on a replica baroque guitar. The songs are strophic settings of love poetry of unknown origin, perhaps the composer himself. They range quite widely in mood from the rather doleful O perduti dilettithrough the very colourful Che pietà sperar si puòto the ironic Dove n’andrò. The poetry is less directly bawdy than some contemporary English material but the sexual allusions come thick and fast in a piece such as Rapitemi, feritemi. These songs may lie in that ambiguous area between art song and popular song but there’s no lack of musical interest here.
The Play of Daniel (Danielis ludus) is a 12th or 13th century Latin liturgical play from Beauvais in nothern France. It appears in the liturgy for January 1st, The Feast of the Circumcision, and appears to have been an attempt to channel the traditional post Christmas disorder into more acceptable channels. It was probably performed by the sub deacons of the Cathedral; young men in minor orders. Alex and David Fallis have run with this setting and tried to create a piece that would evoke the same sort of reactions from a 21st century audience as the original did for those who saw it in Beauvais. That’s a huge ask but, to my mind, they succeeded admirably.
Yesterday the Talisker Players ventured into new territory for them with a program of Irving Berlin songs entitled Puttin’ on the Ritz. I’m no expert on Broadway in general or Tin Pan Alley in particular but, I suppose like most people, I’ve been exposed to a lot of this music through TV and films. The Talisker presentation was interesting and unusual in that they employed a string quartet and two classically trained singers rather than a dance band or a pianist and voices from a different tradition.
Cavalli’s Giasone is a bit of a peculiar piece, It’s based on parts of the Jason/Medea/Golden Fleece story but it’s at heart a comedy. It was wildly popular in the 17th century then pretty much lapsed into obscurity though there is one recording available on DVD. It provides quite a lot of opportunity for sight gags and spectacle so one had to wonder how well it would play in a concert version as presented by the Toronto Consort last night. Actually they did quite well with it but let’s take a step back to talk about the piece for a minute. Continue reading →