It’s that mid point of the academic year when the GGS puts on a recital programme that features a fairly full selection of the available singing talent at the Conservatory. This means one sees everything from first year undergrads to singers in the final stages of a master’s degree, who may already be singing professionally, so it’s a constant exercise in recalibration. It wasn’t helped last night by the fact that I had serious TTC problems causing me to miss the first three numbers on the programme plus feeling a bit frazzled for the rest. So, in no particular order, I’m going to write about what I particularly enjoyed. Omission should not be over-interpreted.
The GGS Vocal Showcase is an opportunity to take a look at the vocal talent on offer at the Royal Conservatory. It’s a tricky exercise as the students range from the equivalent of first year undergrad to second year masters so one is constantly recalibrating expectations. We got to hear one bass, two baritones, three tenors, one mezzo soprano and fourteen sopranos in a variety of arias, art songs and ensemble numbers.
So, in no particular order my favourites and “ones to watch”. Lets start with the obvious. Gabriel Sanchez-Ortega is a genuine bass. We only heard him in some Haydn trios last night but he seems to have heft and genuine low notes and quite a wide range. He’s also still quite young. Singing with him was soprano Joanna Burt who also gave us an aria from La Cecchina. She has real potential as a dramatic soprano which is the one part of the tweeter market that isn’t flooded. She has some nice dark colours as well as weight. The trios were rounded out by tenor Zachary Rioux. He held his own with two pretty big voices so we’ll see.
Gounod’s Faust is very French, stuffed with a specifically Catholic religiosity and has all the elements, welcome or not, of 19th century French opera; it’s long, it has ballet, there are interpolated drinking songs etc. Alaina Viau and Markus Kopp’s adaptation Dissociative Me, presented by LooseTEA Music Theatre, is none of these things (OK there’s an interpolated drinking song, Stan Rogers even, but at least it happens in a bar) and it’s all the better for that.
Last night I saw the second performance of Tapestry’s latest compilation of short works. As before it was a mix of excerpts from works in progress and potential projects plus stand alone short scenes developed during the LibLab. This year there was an additional refinement. The works were staged in different parts of the building (part of the Distillery complex) and samples of the local goodies were provided at strategic points along the way.
Loose TEA Theatre’s new show Autocorrect Opera opened last night on the steamy outdoor patio of Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu. It’s a double bill of one acters adapted for the age of the smartphone and the text message. The first piece; Sravinsky’s Mavra was played fairly straight. The young girl Parasha does open the piece with a lament about her boyfriend not texting her and the final denouement is brought on by a missed text but otherwise the plot isn’t much altered though we get a neat updating to the home of a contemporary, status conscious bourgeois with references to the price of Ferrari tyres etc. Good performances all round with Morgan Strickland as a well sung, angsty Parasha, Greg Finney, with his characteristic power and comic timing, as the rich and rather obnoxious father. Keenan Viau, coming in at short notice for an indisposed Daniel Wheeler, was the convincingly annoying neighbour and Justin Stolz was excellent as the extremely unconvincing cross dressing pizza boy, boyfriend, maid. So, good fun but maybe not taking the theme of the evening as far as it might have gone.
Tapestry’s LibLab is a collaborative that brings together composers and librettists to create new work. It provides participants with the opportunity to work with several partners in a short period of time. Throughout the week-long program, writers and composers are partnered with one another for one day each. With input from music and stage directors, each pair writes a short piece of music theatre and investigates the collaborative process. Their work is performed at the end of each day by a resident ensemble of singers and repetiteurs, and then constructively critiqued by the group. The best of the works are polished up for a show later in the year (review of last year’s show) and some go on for further development.
Tapestry Briefs is the product of the Composer-Librettist Workshop run annually by Tapestry. Four composers and four librettists come up with sixteen ideas for a new opera and work up a scene from each. Last night twelve scenes from the most recent workshop were presented in a fully staged format with piano accompaniment in Ernest Balmer Studio and adjacent Distillery spaces. The quartet of singers for the evening was made up of some of Toronto’s top singer/actors; Carla Huhtanen, Krisztina Szabó, Keith Klassen and Peter McGillivray. Piano accompaniment was from Gregory Oh and Jennifer Tung.