The sixth iteration of Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah unsurprisingly morphed from a live show in the intimate setting of the Drake Underground to a streamed video recorded on location in various places in Toronto. There is much that was the same as previously and some interesting differences. The selection of arias and choruses is very similar to previous years starting with “Comfort Ye”; arranged for all four singers and finishing up with “Hallelujah”.
Next Monday, December 21st, Essential Opera is streaming a new one act opera for three singers and string quartet by Monica Pearce called December. Julia and Natasha are newly in a relationship and are visiting Julia’s parents for the first time for the holidays. We are promised a light hearted piece about travel, holiday stress, family and relationships. It premieres at 8pm (Nova Scotia time I think) and it’s ticketed. Cast, crew and ticketing information is here.
My sense of time, or rather lack of one, has made these “upcoming” posts a bit irregular. So anyway these are things I haven’t mentioned so far.
Tonight at 7pm on Youtube, Confluence Concerts present the Hutcheons with a talk on Creativity and Aging based on their book Four Last Songs. I’ve read the book and had (used to have) some of the best conversations with Doctors Linda and Michael so this should be good. Musical excerpts from Messiaen and Leonard Cohen will be performed by Larry Beckwith, Robert Kortgaard and Patricia O’Callaghan. Free.
Wednesday at 8pm on Youtube it’s Tapestry with SOS – Sketch Opera Singers episode 1. Singing peas on a dinner plate. The inner thoughts of evil babies. An attention-starved man who bursts into dramatic song whenever he steps into a light. Check out the teaser that’s already up on Youtube. Also free.
Saturday at 7pm is Opera Atelier’s Something Rich and Strange which is a baroque pasticcio. It’s streamed via the Koerner Hall streaming site and tickets are $25. Check out OA’s website for details.
December 13th at 8pm is Against the Grain’s multicultural Messiah/Complex. Free but registration required.
December 17th at 8pm is Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah.. This is the latest iteration of what has become an annual event but reenvisaged for the web. I was on a Zoom call last Monday with the director and music director. Sounds like it should be good. Also free but registration required.
The usual suspects (check earlier posts for recommendations) are still also mostly producing new content.
Two more spooky shorts from Tapestry Opera and Red Truck productions. If you had any lingering doubts about Keith Klassen’s sanity these should take care of them! That said, the technical quality of these is amazing. (Tapestry Youtube channel).
A COVID flavoured Halloween special from Opera Revue. (Opera Revue’s Youtube channel)
A recording and video presentation by the Kingston Symphony of Dean Burry’s Nijmegen Bridge1944. It’s a homage to the Canadians who died liberating the Netherlands and it’s well worth hearing. There are also more Harmon in Space episodes. (Kingston Symphony Youtube channel)
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.