Staging art song and chamber works happens in Toronto but not a lot. Over the last few years I’ve seen interesting shows from Against the Grain, Collectif and UoT Opera among others. As it’s something I tend to enjoy I was pleased to catch the opening performance of Opera 5’s Hindemith and Shostakovich program; itself the first in a proposed series called Open Chambers.
Summer Opera Lyric Theatre has announced its 2018 season. There are three shows. Massenet’s Manon plays July 27th (8pm) and 29th (2pm) and August 1st (2pm) and 4th (8pm). Handel’s Semele plays July 28th (8pm) and August 1st (8pm), 3rd (8pm) and 4th (2pm). Mozart’s Così fan tutte plays July 28th (2pm) and 31st (8pm) and August 2nd (8pm) and 5th (2pm). Guillermo Silva-Marin directs the young artists of SOLT and all performances are at the Robert Gill Theatre, University of Toronto, 214 College St. (entrance on St. George). Subscription packages for $60 are available. Single tickets are $28, ($22 for students and seniors). For subscription and single tickets call 416-366-7723 (Mondays to Fridays from 12 pm to 6 pm), at the door 2 hours prior to performances, or online at www.ticketmaster.ca.
Today’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured Lucia Cesaroni and Alysson McHardy with Rachel Andrist at the piano and Iain Scott narrating in a program that wasn’t, as expected, all Rossini. Rather it was music written by and for six of the women in Rossini’s life in a program inspired by Patricia Morehead. So what we got was plenty of Rossini, some Bellini, some Clara Schumann and music composed by the ladies themselves. I’m moderately familiar with the music of Pauline Viardot (younger sister of Maria Malibran) but I had never heard anything composed by Malibran, Isabella Colbran, Pauline Sabatier, Giuditta Pasta or Adelina Patti. As it turns out all were perfectly competent song composers and it was good to hear some rather rare material.
Tan Dun’s Water Passion After St. Matthew, given last night by Soundstreams at Trinity St. Paul’s is very Tan Dun. The work is in nine movements and scored for chorus, soprano and bass-baritone soloists, violin, cello, electronics and lots of percussion. And bowls of water and rocks. The texts broadly follow the Passion story finishing with a final Resurrection movement in which water is the symbol of rebirth, recycling and spiritual completeness. There are also ritual elements. Bowls of water laid out in a cruciform pattern are lit from beneath. The musicians change position and the players, especially the percussionists, perform hieratic gestures with the water bowls and their contents. It also involves a complex and dramatic lighting plot.
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured members of the Esprit Orchestra and Krisztina Szabó. Two instrumental pieces kicked things off. There was an Andrew Staniland composition for snare drum and electronics; Orion Constellation Theory, played by Ryan Scott. This was quite witty and inventive. Very Staniland in fact. Then came a three movement work for solo harp; Alexina Louie’s From the Eastern Gate played by Sanya Eng. For two movements it was light and bright using mainly the upper end of the harp’s range. It was engagingly tuneful too though not in any kind of conventionally tonal way. The third movement was darker, louder and more dramatic, brooding even, and using a far wider range of the instrument’s capabilities. All up, an interesting piece.
It’s a quiet week coming up. There’s just a couple of churchy things that I’m aware of and they are both on the afternoon of Sunday 18th. On the island the Anglican Church of St. Andrew-by-the-Lake is holding a Piano Fundraising Party in aid of acquiring a new grand piano for their music program. Works by Mozart, Debussy, Gounod, and Jazz standards will be performed by Vadim Serebryany, Melissa Scott, Gilles Thibodeau, Kristin Day, Louis Lawlor, Jonathan Krehm, Rachel Krehm, Mike Milligan and Roger Sharp. It’s from 3pm to 5pm. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased either in advance from Roger Sharp at 416-779-3886/ firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the door. There will also be art auctions and stuff.
A concert of contemporary works for accordion? Why not! Well it was more of a concert of contemporary works for fixed reed instruments with, ironically, Trinity St. Paul’s most impressive fixed reed instrument forming an unused but imposing backdrop to the proceedings. Things started off conventionally enough with Soundstreams’ Artistic Director Lawrence Cherney on stage with three players of different instruments describing their histories and properties and then mild Hell broke loose as a curiously clad Joseph Macerollo burst into the auditorium, ejected Lawrence and friends and launched into R. Murray Schafer’s performance piece La Testa d’Adriane; the tale of a head mystically preserved between life and death. At this point the purpose of the rather bizarre contraption on stage was unclear but soon enough the cloth was pulled back to reveal Carla Huhtanen, or her head at least. More accordion and speech from Macerollo and a bizarre collection of grunts, squeaks, shrieks and gurning from Carla followed. Madness or genius? It’s Schafer. The question is unanswerable.