The Dora award nominations are in. The most interesting thing is that the COC doesn’t dominate the Opera category this year. In fact Tapestry has most nominations with thirteen. In general, it was really nice to see new “committed” opera dominating the list rather than the usual stuff. Indigenous themes did very well too which is very pleasing. Loads of nominations for Shanawdithit, including Best Performer in a Leading Role for Marion Newman, which pleases me greatly. Good to see FAWN’s Pandora and Soundstreams’ Two Odysseys: Pimooteewin / Gállábártnit featuring along with LooseTea’s Singing Only Softly/The Diary of Anne Frank: Operas from the Secret Annex. There was one surprise in the list of COC nominations. I’m actually quite shocked that Speranza Scappucci didn’t get nominated for her conducting of Barber of Seville; a really remarkable performance. And one non-surprise; multiple nominations for Rusalka which might just be the best thing the COC have done in quite a while.
So now we can all speculate on who the eventual winners will be.
Soundstreams have announced their 2020/21 season and hopefully we will get to see some of it! As ever there’s loads of good stuff starting with Steve Reich being in Toronto for his 85th birthday in April 2021. Other stuff that gets me excited includes:
Huang Ruo’s The Book of Mountain and Seas as part of 21C at Koerner in January 2021. This features the vocal ensemble Ars Nova Copenhagen and puppets!
Chan Ka Nin’s A Dragon’s Tale. It’s a co-pro with Tapestry and promises a waterfront extravaganza of western and eastern musical traditions. That’s coming in June next year.
May 2021 sees a line up of Toronto’s finest performing works by Claude Vivier plus a new commission from Christopher Mayo. That’s going to be in the very intimate Temerty Theatre at the RCM
Plus Electric Messiah, Encounters and more. Full details here.
The second half of January kicks off with the COC’s revival production f Rossini’s Barber of Seville, this time starring Emily D’Angelo as Rosina. There are eight performances running to February 7th.
. Sunday 26th at 2pm there’s a concert in the Mazzoleni Songmasters series. It’s called Sirens and features Leslie Ann Bradley, Allyson McHardy and Rachel Andrist in a suitably watery and alluring program.
Last night marked the last performance I plan on seeing before the holidays so it’s time for the annual “best of” posting. So what did your scribe enjoy or admire the most in 2019? Let’s look at it by categories.
Fully staged opera with orchestra
The COC had a decent year but two of their shows stood out for me. David McVicar’s production of Rusalka in October was perhaps all round the best thing the COC have done in years. The production was clever in that interrogated the material enough to ask lots of questions for those willing to think about them without doing anything to upset those not so interested. Musically one really can’t imagine hearing Rusalka sung or played better anywhere in the world. The other winner was Elektra in January. The orchestra and the singing was the winner here, especially Christine Goerke, but the production was better than average and we don’t see enough of the great modern classics in the Four Seasons stage.
It’s the fifth year that Soundstreams has put on Electric Messiah which I guess means it’s pretty much becoming a holiday tradition. This iteration may just be the best yet. This version seemed quite stripped down compared to some years and all the better for it. It’s centred around rearranged (and shortened) excerpts from the Handel work supplemented with some personal touches for the cast. This time the “band” was Wesley Shen on harpsichord, Joel Visentin on keyboards and electric organ, Joel Schwartz on assorted acoustic and electric guitars and Adam Scime directing from the (laptop) keyboard which controlled lots of effective electronics. SlowPitchSound was there on turntables with Lybido dancing.
December is not just Messiah though heaven knows there are plenty of those…
On Sunday 1st Voicebox is presenting Janáček’s Katya Kabanova. It has a strong cast including Lynn Isnar, Emilia Boteva, Michael Barrett and Cian Horrobin. We don’t see nearly enough Janáček in Toronto. That’s at 2.30pm at the St. Lawrence Centre.
Against the Grain’s remount of Figaro’s Wedding runs December 3rd to the 20th at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse at 8pm. Music direction this time is by Rachael Kerr and the cast includes Bruno Roy, Miriam Khalil, Ally Smither, Phillip Addis, Lauren Eberwein, Jacques Arsenault, Maria Soulis and Greg Finney. Review of the 2013 original.
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.
I think it’s time to get back to doing two listing posts per month as the schedule is getting pretty busy.
On November 1st at 8pm Karina Gauvin is appearing at Koerner Hall with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra in a programme of opera arias from 18th century St. Petersburg. The following night at 7.30pm, in Mazzoleni Hall, the Glenn Gould School has its fall production. This time it’s Jonathan Dove’s Siren Song. Curiously UoT Opera is also doing a work by Dove this season.
Hell’s Fury(*) is a two man show about Hanns Eisler conceived and created by Tim Albery. It’s focussed on his time in the United States and, somewhat, on his return to the DDR. It combines songs from the Hollywood Songbook (poems by Brecht and others set by Eisler), dialogue and projections to tell the story of Eisler’s arrival in Hollywood, his work in the US, his deportation as a result of the “work” of the House Un-American Activities Committee and his return to the GDR and struggles to come to terms with the Stalinist culturecrats leading ultimately to drink, depression and death.
June is shaping up to busier than one might expect. But first here’s one last announcement for May. On the 22nd B-Exalted have a choral concert at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at 8pm. Soloists are Dallas Chorley, soprano; Rebecca Gray, alto; Charles Davidson and David Walsh, tenors, and Janaka Welihinda, bass. More details here.
And so to June itself. There are two items of interest on June 1st. At Hart House Theatre at 2pm there’s a performance of Charlotte: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music before it leaves for a tour of Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Israel. I’m curious to see how it’s developed since we saw a version that was still rather WIP in June 2017. Later, at 8pm at St. Thomas Anglican Church there’s the latest in the Confluence Series. This one is titled At the River and features, among others, Larry Beckwith, Dylan Bell, Ian Cusson, James Meade, Marion Newman, Patricia O’Callaghan, Suba Sankaran, Jacqueline Teh and Giles Tomkins. This has become a “don’t miss” series.