Today’s lunchtime recital in the RBA was really quite exceptional. Simone McIntosh and Stéphane Mayer offered up a really well chosen program and executed it extremely well. Grieg’s Sechs Lieder is a lovely and varied setting of six German texts. Poulenc’s Banalités sets texts by Apollinaire in a way that reflects their essential weirdness. Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder are as good examples as one can get of how the Second Vienna School, despite its scary reputation, is really all about lush and approachable and the closing set of Frank Bridge songs showed that he was a heck of a lot more than Britten’s composition teacher.
So Toronto’s weather took a weird twist pushing the Humidex into the 40s just in time for the Opera Five movie themed fundraiser at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu last night. And some people still managed to wear suits and ties and stuff. Made of sterner stuff than me I tell you. And even more props to the ladies who were sporting Rosemarie’s creations. They looked great but some of them must have been hell in the heat.
It was an interesting format with seven singers and two pianists appearing in various combinations and guests having an opportunity to sponsor a singer to sing their “feature” aria. It was fun and there were some fine singers on display. Two I’ve seen and enjoyed in the past were baritone Geoffrey Sirett and coloratura soprano Teiya Kasahara. Both were on good form with some fine Escamillo from Geoffrey and the mad scene from Lucia from Teiya in a rather good arrangement for voice, flute and piano. The other five were new to me but I’d happily go see any of them. Favourite moments for me would be some fine Carmen from the unpronounceable Olenka Harasymowycz (who looks disturbingly like Maria Ewing), a very cute “Poor Wandering One” from Caitlin Wood and a very fine “Ebben…” (from Catalani’s La Wally) from Calgary’s Krista de Silva. Accompaniment was from music director Mai Nash and Jo Greenaway on piano with flautist Amelia Lyon.
So, a fun event which seemed to be raising quite a bit of much needed cash. The first show it will be helping fund is In Pace Requiescat; a trio of one act operas based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. There will be The Cask of Amontillado by Daniel Pinkham, La Chute de la Maison d’Usher by Claude Debussy and the world première of The Masque of the Red Death by Cecilia Livingston. Performances will be at the Arts and letters Club on Elm Street on the 27th, 30th and 31st of October. Tickets are available from 05inpace.eventbrite.ca and are $30 ($25 concessions).
Figaro’s Wedding music by W.A Mozart, libretto by Joel Ivany, opened last night at The Burroughes. A full house, many dressed as if attending a wedding as requested, saw an extremely effective realisation of another ambitious project from Against the Grain Theatre. This isn’t just another low budget production of a well known opera. Figaro’s Wedding is a complete rework of the piece. The music is the familiar Mozart in a very effective piano quintet arrangement by Topher Mokrzewski, albeit with cuts to suit the new libretto, The libretto is in English, cuts the chorus (and Barbarina) and reshapes the story around a wedding in today’s Toronto. Gone are aristocrats, servants and hangers on. Instead we have a young couple – Susanna and Figaro, his boss and boss’ wife – Alberto and Rosina, and the various arrangers and functionaries connected with the wedding. Oh yes, and there’s a lesbian grad student called Cherubino living in Alberto and Rosina’s basement. The story unfolds in a way that’s close enough to da Ponte for the twists and departures to add a little extra amusement for those who know the libretto well. It’s very smart, extremely funny and surprisingly singable.