To another excellent Confluence Concerts production last night at Heliconian Hall. This one was curated by Confluence’s Young Artistic Associate Ryan Davis; composer, violist and electronic Wunderkind. He was joined by a very talented group of young musicians; Kevin Ahfat (piano), Bora Kim (violin), Daniel Hamin Go (cello) and Jonelle Sills (soprano) plus the vocal talents of Confluence stalwart Suba Sankaran. The programme was built around English and French romantic music plus Ryan’s own compositions influenced by that tradition.
Last night at Mazzoleni Hall we were entertained by the Royal Conservatory’s Rebanks fellows. The programme was, to say the least, varied and very enjoyable. It began with a movement from Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G minor played by Isobel Howard – violin, Caleb Georges – viola, Joanne Yesol Choi – cello and Sejin Yoon – piano. It was a pleasant, if conventional, start to the evening. There were rather more fireworks in the “Allegro ma non troppo” from Strauss’ Violin Sonata in E flat major. There was some seriously virtuosic playing here from Aaaron Chan – violin and Ben Smith – piano.
from L to R: Michael Bridge, accordion; Caleb Georges, viola; Isobel Howard, violin; Sejin Yoon, piano; Hannah Crawford, soprano; Daniel Hamin Go, cello; Tim Beattie, guitar; Jonelle Sills, soprano; Aaron Chan, violin.
Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured the vocalist Rebanks fellows from the Glenn Gould School. There was some very classy and very powerful singing. We heard Hannah Crawford, fresh off her second place at Centre Stage, sing a couple of arias; “Pleurez, plearez mes yeux” from Masenet’s Le Cid and “Come Scoglio” from Cosí. There was some very considerable power on display here as well as accuracy and emotion. Definitely one to watch.
Brandon Jacobs-Jenkjins’ play Gloria, directed by André Sills is currently playing at Crow’s Theatre. It’s a hard play to describe as spoilers must be avoided and it works at many different levels. The initial setting is the offices of a New York “culture” magazine where we meet various members of the highly dysfunctional workforce. A shocking event happens and the rest of the play explores how various parts of the media industries relate to such events in the internet age along with issues related to who really “owns” an experience and in what sense does that “ownership” validate or privilege their version of events versus any other. One of the ideas here is that the “product” has become in every way secondary. The magazine is little more than a prop for blog posts. Book publishing is largely geared around selling the movie or TV rights. Movie and TV production is largely about providing a package for prefabricated celebrities to feature in. The irony of a print and internet reviewer writing about all this is not lost on me!
There’s not exactly a flood of events in my calendar for march yet but there are a few. Running March 1st to 20th at Crow’s Theatre is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ satirical play Gloria about a Manhattan magazine staff seeking fame and glory as the internet turns the industry upside down. It’s not an opera but it’s directed by the very talented André Sills which is reason enough for me.
Back to the Tranzac last night for the first Toronto performance of Against the Grain’s national tour of the Joel Ivany transladaptation of Puccini’s La Bohème which started it all back in 2011. The Tranzac has changed a lot and so, of course, has Against the Grain. The room is way smarter, they brought in a proper piano to replace the one that Topher plonked the first performance out on (and which memorably accompanied Jonathan MacArthur’s rather startling Hitler a few years later). And not in any way to knock that first cast it’s a sign of AtG’s rising stature that this time they are fielding a cast that would not be out of place in most regional houses in Canada.
Toronto City Opera has been around for a while but its previous performance location at the Bickford Centre was quite sufficient to keep me away. The Miles Nadal JCC is quite another matter. The basic idea of TCO is that the chorus is open to, essentially, anybody and that their subscriptions, plus fund raising, allow the company to do a couple of staged shows each year with young professional soloists, director, conductor and pianist. So, in theory it’s a chorus centric endeavour so the choice of Le Nozze di Figaro seems a bit odd since it has less than ten minutes of chorus and that is usually covered by a small group of eight or so ladies. That said, Nozze is their first of two productions this season and I saw the last show in the run this afternoon.
Die Fledermaus offers a lot scope for reinterpretation. Like so many works involving spoken dialogue there is a tradition of reworking that dialogue to work in contemporary humour and geographic relevance to the point where there is no canonical version though there’s probably a set of general expectations. Joel Ivany’s production for the Glenn Gould School, which opened last night at Koerner Hall, goes further than most to create a “play within a play” dynamic riffing to some extent on the difficulty of staging an opera in a concert hall. He also makes the decision to use English dialogue but have the sung text in the original German (except for the finale).
It’s that mid point of the academic year when the GGS puts on a recital programme that features a fairly full selection of the available singing talent at the Conservatory. This means one sees everything from first year undergrads to singers in the final stages of a master’s degree, who may already be singing professionally, so it’s a constant exercise in recalibration. It wasn’t helped last night by the fact that I had serious TTC problems causing me to miss the first three numbers on the programme plus feeling a bit frazzled for the rest. So, in no particular order, I’m going to write about what I particularly enjoyed. Omission should not be over-interpreted.