The Vocalis series from the UoT’s graduate students tends to fly under the radar a bit. Perhaps because it’s usually lost in the abundance of free university linked concerts in Walter Hall. Sunday night’s performance though was at the Extension Room; always an interesting venue, with more room for actor/singers to move around and interact with the audience. The theme was Mother Earth, and our responsibility to nurture the planet that nurtures us. Coal Barons and Big Oil can switch off now.
There are some unusual books coming my way these days. The latest is an autobiography (more or less) of David Tucker; the middle son of the late Richard Tucker; a fixture at the Met for thirty years until his death in 1975. I found it fascinating but I’m not entirely sure whether that’s because it’s a good book or because of the many places where it has a lot of personal resonance for me. Both I suspect. I also found myself having very ambivalent feelings about David (and perhaps even more so Richard) Tucker but I don’t think it’s the purpose of a reviewer of an autobiography to make moral judgements about his subject. The reader can do that for him/herself.
Recitals at Rosedale is a new venture from collaborative pianists John Greer and Rachel Andrist. There will be four themed recitals, each featuring multiple singers, on Sunday afternoons at Rosedale Presbyterian Church. Last night saw a preview of excerpts from all four programs. Around 200 people showed up on a very hot and humid Saturday evening to see a pretty decent cross section of Toronto’s singing talent. The venue has a typically resonant church acoustic and tends to swallow the words a bit however carefully the singer enunciates but it’s a sensible size, holding maybe 200-300 and so avoids the problem of feeling empty even when there is actually a pretty decent crowd.
Christopher Alden’s recent productions in Toronto; Rigoletto and Der Fliegender Holländer, were controversial, rather cerebral affairs that delighted his fans but tended to puzzle, and even infuriate, the more conservative critics and opera goers. His Die Fledermaus, which opened last night at the Four Seasons Centre, has something for everybody. There are two main threads uniting the three acts. The first is the piece as an allegory of Austrian bourgeois society from an insecure pre WW1 period through a period of unbridled hedonism in the 1920s to the beginnings of Fascism. The second is a much more explicit depiction of Falke as the ringmaster of the whole circus. He goes from manipulative Freudian psychiatrist in Act 1 to Orlofsky’s confidante in Act 2 to, bat costumed, sitting astride the giant watch that hangs above the stage; the only character aloof from the takeover of the drama by the sinisterly Fascistic Frosch. All this is strung together by prefiguring later elements in earlier scenes. In Act 1 the party goers from Act 2 invade the scene via the fractured wall of Rosalinde’s bedroom as Gabriel imagines the delights to come. A silent but frenetic Frosch appears on stage at various points in the first two acts although his identity isn’t apparent until the coup de theâtre that carries us into Act 3. Additionally Alden does not shy away from bat imagery, including it’s darker overtones. There are bat shadows on the backdrop during the overture, Falke first appears as a Dracula look alike, the ‘ballet’ are batgirls and we close out with Falke, again dressed as a bat, overseeing the denouement. There’s a lot going on and I shall be very happy to see this again and delve deeper (a recurrent theme with Alden productions). Continue reading