News, news, news

nataly gennadiThis just in.  Ukrainian Canadian soprano Natalya Gennadi will replace Ambur Braid in the title role in Tapestry’s Oksana G.  I should have seen that coming as I know that Ambur is singing in a Krenek’s The Secret Kingdom at Oper Frankfurt until May 21st and Oksana G. opens on the 24th!  I’ve only seen Ms. Gennadi sing once but she was impressive and she’s a protégée of Sondra Radvanovsky.

Sadder, Talisker Players are shutting up shop at the end of the season after eighteen years.  Likely another example of there only being so long any one person or team can keep up the funding grind.  Talisker’s concerts were an often interesting mix of music and related readings and no-one else really operates in that niche.

Coming up

letravail_365sqIt’s getting a bit busier again.  This afternoon there are a couple of concerts.  At 2pm in Mazzoleni Hall you can catch Mireille Asselin and Brett Polegato with Peter Tiefenbach and Rachel Andrist in a painting themed program of lieder, artsongs and chansons called Le travail du peintre.  At 4.30pm at Metropolitan United Church Bach’s Mass in B Minor meets German film maker Bastian Clevé’s film The Sound of Eternity.  The soloists are Marjorie Maltais, Geoff Sirett, Jennifer Krabbe and Charles Sy plus the Orpheus Choir, Chorus Niagara and the Talisker Players.  I suppose it would just about be possible to do both…

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Spirit Dreaming

CBSimgLast night I braved the storm to catch an intriguingly curated show at Trinity St. Paul’s.  Talisker Players’ Spirit Dreaming was a selection of music in which “western” composers explore the ideas of colonized peoples through the medium of vocal chamber music.  The music was interspersed with readings from creation myths from around the world.  It was very interesting to see how changing ideas of “cultural appropriation” and different cultural contexts; French and British colonies, Brazil, northern Finland, influenced works which range in time from the 1920s to the 2010s.

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The Highwayman and Other Travels

Burry 2Most people in the Toronto opera world know Dean Burry principally as a composer of operas for children.  He’s written several and a couple have been mainstays of COC school tours.  It’s perhaps understandable then if his music is seen as approachable and maybe, even (sotto voce), a little unsophisticated.  Last night, a recital of Dean’s works in Victoria College Chapel; part of his DMA program at UoT, provided a chance to hear a number of works in a much broader range of styles.

The concert kicked off with Tussah Heera playing InPerfections for solo piano.  It’s a fully serial piece with the tone rows based on the DNA sequences of various hereditary diseases.  It’s quite striking and way more than a just a theory exercise.  The same could be said for Three Caprices for solo violin played by Dean’s partner Julia McFarlane.  These used a range of extended violin techniques to good effect.

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High Standards

photo-headshotTalisker Players latest show, High Standards, was a bit different from previous efforts of theirs that I have attended.  This was all about the music.  There were no prose or poetry readings.  The music was a selection from what might be considered the “golden age” of the Broadway musical.  The time period covered being the four decades from 1933 to 1973 or, roughly, Showboat to A Little Night Music.  I’m not an expert in Broadway theatre but I was struck by how the music remained remarkably similar over that period while the lyrics got, generally, more sardonic.  That’s pretty curious when one reflects on the changed in classical music, and even popular music over that time period.  Where the music did seem to be rather different was when there was an “intervention” from someone with a foot in another camp.  There were selections here from Gershwin and Bernstein that did sound different.  The latter in particular playing with tonality in a way that seemed very daring by comparison, though tame of course by classical music standards.  I’m sure proper musicologists would have much more to say about this. Continue reading

Back to work

zelenkaThings are starting to pick up after the Christmas lull.  Here’s my pick of the week in Toronto for w/c 10th January.

Today at 3.30pm The Talisker Players have a concert at Trinity St. Paul’s called High Standards.  It’s classic Broadway (Sondheim, Gershwin, Kern etc) and features soloists Virginia Hatfield and James Levesque.  (Also Tuesday at 8pm).

Wednesday is the COC Season Launch at the Four Season’s Centre at 6.30pm.  I think it’s subscribers and invitees only.  Speculation on what we might hear is here (me) and here (Dylan Hayden).

Then on Saturday from 1pm to 6pm Tafelmusik have a singing competition to select soloists for a future performance of Zelenka’s Missa omnium sanctorum.  Two gals and seven guys compete.  It’s free and , of course, it’s at Trinity St. Paul’s.

Heroes, Gods and Mortals

hymnThe Talisker Players’ latest show is pretty typical of what they do best; partner with some excellent singers and an actor to create an interesting program of words and music on a given theme.  Last night, as the title suggests, the theme was classical mythology; a rich enough seam for almost anything!  Most of the musical works chosen were twentieth century or later with only excerpts from a Pergolesi cantata harking back to an era that drew more heavily on these sources.

The first piece was Alan Hovhaness’ Hercules for soprano and violin performed by Carla Huhtanen and Elizabeth Loewen Andrews.  This was so very Hovhaness; haunting, disturbing and very beautiful.  It seems as rooted in the pre-classical world as the Heroic Age but perhaps that’s just a kind of timelessness.  It’s a perfect fit for Carla and the violin playing was beautiful too.

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On a Darkling Plain


Joel Allison

The Talisker Players latest offering is a concert titled On a Darkling Plain.  It’s an ambitious program of 20th and 21st century music interspersed, in the Talisker manner, with selected texts read (very expressively) by Stewart Arnott.

It kicks off with Samuel Barber’s 1931 setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach.  It’s a dark and evocative piece for a 21 year old and was sensitively performed by baritone Joel Allison supported by violinists Michelle Ordorico and Andrew Chung, Talisker music director Mary McGeer on viola and Laura Jones on cello.  Allison is very young and hasn’t been seen much in Toronto but he seems to have the hallmarks of a lieder singer.  He’s expressive and attentive to the text, has an attractive voice but can summon up a surprising amount of volume when he needs it.  I was impressed.

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In like a lion

7796132196_c04e8013c3_zGood heavens it’s March already!  There’s lots coming up in the Toronto vocal music scene.  This Saturday sees George Benjamin’s Written on Skin in concert performance with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall.  Chris Purves and Barbara Hannigan from the original cast are singing with Bernhard Landauer coming in for Bejun Mehta as the Boy.  The composer conducts.

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