Pierrot

pierrotLast night the Happenstancers presented a short but extremely enjoyable Pierrot themed concert at 918 Bathurst.  The major work, unsurprisingly, was Schoenberg’s melodrama Pierrot lunaire for voice and chamber ensemble.  It was presented in two parts.  The first fourteen poems formed the first half of the programme which closed out with the concluding seven.  It was extremely well done.  Danika Lorèn was an excellent choice as the voice.  She has the technique for Schoenberg’s tricky sprechstimme as well as the innate musicality and sense of drama the piece needs.  The standard “Pierrot ensemble” is perfectly suited for the Happenstancers typically eclectic mixing of instruments.  Here we had Brad Cherwin on clarinets, Rebecca Maranis on flutes, Hee-See Yoon on violin and viola, Sarah Gans on cello and Alexander Malikov on piano.  Simon Rivard conducted.  Skilful playing and well timed interplay between instruments and voice made for a most satisfactory experience. Continue reading

Late June

danikalA couple more things coming up this month.

  • 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”

Sirènes

sirenes cover smallSirènes is an album of pieces by Montreal composer Ana Sokolović.  The first pice, which gives the album its title, is written for six unaccompanied female voices.  It’s performed here by the vocal ensemble of Queen of Puddings Music Theatre conducted by Dáirine Ní Mheadhra. The six ladies in question are Danika Lorèn, Shannon Mercer, Magali Simard-Galdès, Caitlin Wood, Andrea Ludwig, and Krisztina Szabó.  It’s an interesting piece and very Sokolović.  The text is bent and twisted into sound fragments which are “sung” using an array of extended vocal techniques.  The overall effect is of a shimmering, fluttery and quite absorbing sound world.

Continue reading

CASP at 21C

Last night’s Canadian Art Song Project, part of the Conservatory’s 21C festival, was sold out.  Yep, a sold out concert of contemporary Canadian art song not featuring an A-list singer.  Clearly Mercury is in retrograde or something.  Anyway, the first half of the concert featured baritone Iain MacNeil with one of my favourite collaborative pianists Mélisande Sinsoulier.  They gave us Lloyd Burritt’s The Moth Poem to texts by Robin Blaser.  This is a basically tonal work with a piano part that I found more interesting than the vocal writing (common enough in contemporary art song).  There was some nice delicate singing from Ian and complete mastery of the intricate piano part by Mélisande.  Andrew Staniland’s setting of Wallace Stevens’ Peter Quince at the Clavier followed.  This is a more ambitious work with quite a complex soundscape and a piano part that requires a range of technique as much of it is written to sound “mechanical” as a nod to the title of the poem.  Oddly, despite the title, the text is a rich but highly allusive rendering of the story of Susanna and the Elders and a reminder of how much a really interesting text can enhance a song.  I’d like to hear this again.

Continue reading

dawn always begins in the bones

The Canadian Art Song Projects sesqui commission premiered today in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  It’s a piece by Ana Sokolović for soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone and pianist and today, as was always intended, it got its first outing from members of the COC Ensemble Studio.  It was billed as a “song cycle” and, while it’s certainly a setting of poems to music, that description really doesn’t do it justice.  Sokolović’s music always seems to have dramatic potential and here that was realised extremely effectively by Anna Theodosakis to create a piece of performance art with many dimensions.

Continue reading

The rest of May

Ana_Sokolovic_2May continues to be a busy month.  There are a couple of interesting concerts at noon in the RBA next week.  On Wednesday 17th there is the unveiling of the annual Canadian Art Song project commission.  This year it’s extremely ambitious.  It’s a cycle of sixteen songs by Ana Sokolović setting texts drawn from right across Canada.  It’s called dawn always begins in the bones and will be performed by Danika Lorèn, Emily D’Angelo, Bruno Roy and Aaron Sheppard with Liz Upchurch at the piano.  (You can also hear this work in the Temerty Theatre at the Conservatory at 7.30pm on Thursday May 25th along with Andrew Staniland’s Peter Quince at the Clavier and Lloyd Burritt’s Moth Poem).  On Thursday 18th tenor Charles Sy and pianist Hyejin Kwon bid farewell to the COC Ensemble Studio with a performance of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin.  It should be a real treat.

Continue reading

Canadian Opera Company announces rather more than just the 2015/16 season

Last night was the “event” at which the COC brass and guests, with a bit of help from Brent Bambury, announced the upcoming season to a packed house of subscribers and friends.  What struck me was how much news was packed in.  It was far more than the usual schedule presentation with announcements of several major new projects.  But first the season.   Continue reading

New song commission from CASP

News just in that the Canadian Art Song Project (CASP) has commissioned Montreal-based composer Ana Sokolović to write a new song cycle. The new work is being composed for piano and a quartet of singers from the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio. The world premiere will form part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre and will form part of the company’s celebration of Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017 (along, it is said, with a revival of Harry Somer’s Louis Riel).

The new song cycle from Sokolović adds to previous works commissioned by CASP include Sewing the Earthworm (2011) by Brian Harman (review), Cloud Light (2012) by Norbert Palej, Extreme Positions and Birefingence (2013) by Brian Current (review), and Moths (2013) by James Rolfe. Other commissions that have been announced and are currently in development include new works by Peter Tiefenbach (2014) and Marjan Mozetich (2014).

Photo credit Alain Lefort

In the news

The good news this week is that Canadian Opera Company have extended the contract of Music Director Johannes Debus through 2017. This follows the announcement of a contract extension for General Director Alexander Neef. So, not only does COC get to keep a very good conductor who is well liked by the orchestra but it keeps the Neef/Debus team together for at least another five years. Neef and Debus seem to work together extremely well so this bodes well for a continuation of the combination of varied repertoire, interesting productions and starry casts that we have seen recently at the Four Seasons Centre.  Continue reading