June 17th/18th/19th Toronto Operetta Theatre are presenting Oscar Straus’ A Waltz Dream at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.
June 19th at 4.30pm Opera Revue have a Father’s day show at the Emmett Ray.
June 24th the Happenstancers have a concert at 918 Bathurst. It’s Pierrot themed with Danika Loren singing the obvious Schoenberg work plus moon themed music by Saariaho, Sokolovic and the Saskatchewan Songbird herself. One not to miss IMHO
June 25th at Crow’s theatre Soundstreams are presenting Noam Bierstone and guests in Percussion Theatre. It’s described as “a curated concert experience exploring the concept of instrumental theatre: the music doesn’t just accompany an action, the music is the action”
Last night the Happenstancers presented another intriguing concert of chamber music titled Chimaera. This time it was in the excellent hall at 918 Bathurst. It was a clever conceit. There were three “sets” with each consisting of two contrasting works that were combined in different ways.
The pieces in the first set were played straightforwardly consecutively but consisted of the least familiar music; Julia Wolfe’s Reeling and the premiere of Nahre Sol’s Chunhyang. Wolfe is one of those young American composers who combine a conservatory training with a taste for minimalism and hard driving rock and, in the case of this piece, folk music. It’s scored for nine instrumentalists including electric guitar and drum kit plus lots of electronics. It’s really cool and reminds me of the most drunk ceilidhs I’ve ever been to. And that may be why I remember almost nothing about the second piece except that the composer (keyboards) was playing it.
I’m rather suffering from “stream fatigue” right now but once in a while something really worth watching shows up. I’d put Royal Swedish Opera’s recent performance of Kaija Saariaho’s oratorio La passion de Simone in that category. It’s a 2006 work with a French libretto by Amin Maalouf dealing with the life and thought of philosopher, social activist and mystic Simone Weil.
Ekstasis is a multi-media collaboration between Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barrière. There are six pieces on the Blu-ray disk. Three were written by Saariaho with the visual elements added later by her husband. The Barrière works were conceived from the outset as multi-media pieces.
The three Saariaho pieces come first. There’s Nocturne for solo violin which is the only piece that doesn’t include electronics. It’s played by Allisa Neige Barrière and is a kind of meditation for extended violin techniques. The video element is the violinist sort of semi superposed on a rippling pond. It’s typical of all the visuals. An image, often the player, is combined with another image, often, as here, of a landscape element. The images merge and flicker in a sort of kaleidoscopic way.
Only the Sound Remains is a chamber opera by Kaija Sariaho based on two Noh plays translated by Ernest Fenellosa and Ezra Pound. The piece was premiered in Amsterdam in 2016 by Dutch National Opera, where it was recorded. It’s a co-pro with Teatro Real, Finnish National Opera and the COC so Toronto audiences will likely get a look at it eventually. Which is good because it’s really hard to figure out much of it from the video recording. As he so often does, Peter Sellars directs for both stage and camera and while I like his stage work here I find his video direction quite annoying, especially in the first piece.
Averse as I have become to the Met’s HD broadcasts the lure of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin in a new production by Robert Lepage proved too strong. I’m glad I went. In fact this was probably the best Live in HD broadcast that I’ve seen. Lepage’s production is magical and absolutely at one with the libretto and the score. It’s deceptive simplicity mirrors the same qualities in both. Basically we are face with bands of light (32000 LEDs) across the stage which change colour as required and provide an ethereal shimmering backdrop. The chorus, rarely more than their heads or hands or both, appear in tight ranks from among the lights. There’s a sort of swivelling gantry with a platform at each end that configures to be the various settings for Jaufré and Clémence and there is the Pilgrim and his/her boat. Simple, configurable, effective and very, very beautiful. Indeed, Lepage and his team at the top of their game.
The last Songmasters concert of the season featured a selection of works that sorta kinda had a Finnish or Hungarian connection. The first part of the prgram featured songs by Sibelius, all but one to Swedish texts, and piano pieces by Selim Palmgren, whose music sounds like a sort of cross between Debussy and Sibelius. The songs were sung Stephen Hegedus with plenty of power and quite a bit of subtlety. We had been told he was quite ill but one wouldn’t have known it. Fine, delicate work at the piano by Robert Kortgaard. Continue reading →
Lisa Hirsch asked on Twitter the other day for suggestions for the five most important operas written since 1965 (i.e. in the last fifty years). It’s a really interesting question and I pinged off a quick, semi-considered response. Thinking about it some more I think I would stick with my choices. (Obviously I haven’t seen every eligible opera but it surprises me a bit how many I have seen live or on DVD). So here are my picks:
Last night the line up for this year’s 21C Music festival was announced. The featured composer is Kaija Saariaho and there are plenty of new works on show. I’m just going to run through some of the highlights.
In February I attended a brilliant lunchtime concert of vocal music by Kaija Saariaho sung by three singers from the COC Ensemble Studio. I wasn’t the only one who was impressed. The composer was so taken with the standard of performance that she has arranged for them to perform a slightly different selection of her works in Washington DC in February.
If you aren’t from Toronto or Montreal (or perhaps Paris, Lyon, Dublin or Belgrade) you probably haven’t heard much about Mireille Asselin, Rihab Chaieb or Jacqueline Woodley (except maybe on this blog) but you will! Strongly recommended both for the music and the singers.