Samuel Mariño with Tafelmusik

Yesterday I saw the second of two performances by Venezuelan male soprano Samuel Mariño with Tafelmusik at Trinity St. Paul’s. The programme was a mixture of virtuoso baroque arias by various composers interspersed with relatively short instrumental pieces.

Samuel Mariño with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

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Philippe Jaroussky and the Ensemble Artaserse

I suppose it’s fair to say that Philippe Jaroussky is a singer who divides opinion; you either love his light bright “soprano” sound or you prefer something more muscular (Sesto vs. Cesare perhaps).  He has a cult following and he knows it.  That side of things was very much on display at Koerner Hall last night when he appeared with the Ensemble Artaserse in a programme of arias from18th century Italian opera.  It was clear that a goodly section of the audience had travelled from out of town for the concert and knew exactly what to expect.  This was exemplified by the three encores leading up to Handel’s “Lascio ch’io pianga” which the hard core fans had been shouting for and weren’t going to go home without hearing!

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The Other Cleopatra

othercleopatraIsabel Bayrakdarian’s latest CD is rather odd. The material is obscure. It’s all taken from 18th century operas about the Armenian king Tigranes and his daughter Cleopatra. The plots are basically the same. Tigranes wants Cleopatra to make a marriage of state but she is in love with Tigranes’ enemy Mithridates. The outcomes are predictable. Apparently, these operas are Bayrakdarian’s academic specialty and she has chosen excerpts from Cleopatra’s part in versions by Hasse, Vivaldi and Gluck.

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Meet the Orchestra Academy

Yesterday’s concert in the RBA, the first I’ve been to in a while, featured the five members of the Orchestra Academy; violinists Joella Pinto and Gloria Yip, violist Carolyn Farnand and cellists Erin Patterson and Alison Rich, with Joel Allison and Samuel Chan and Rachael Kerr on keyboards.  It was an interesting concert in many ways.  We don’t get to see the young instrumentalists much nor do we often see Ensemble members sing with a chamber ensemble.  It was also interesting to hear the contrast between Joel’s dark toned bass-baritone, often singing in a very low tessitura, with Sam’s much brighter, lighter baritone which sometimes was well up in tenor territory.


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The Harlequin Salon

05-harlequin-750x397-extended-rightThe idea of recreating an accademia musicale (private concert) at the home of Roman artist/patron Pier Leone Ghezzi in 1723 and putting on works that might have been played at such an event is an intriguing one.  Add to that that we were promised caricatures; Ghezzi being a noted pioneer of the form.  Marco Cera, who conceived the show, seemed to be onto a good thing.

What we actually got wasn’t exactly what I expected.  There were the musicians, including noted baroque soprano Roberta Invernizzi, impersonating Ghezzi’s guests; from Vivaldi to Farinelli, with Cera himself as Ghezzi.  But there was also Ghezzi’s servant, played as Harlequin, acted by Dino Gonçalves.  The show was heavy on Harlequin’s cheeky chappy clowning which was, as the lemur put it, like “watching Jerry Lewis channelling Roger Rabbit”.  Not really my thing.

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Alma Oppressa

alma oppressaThis review first appeared in the print edition of Opera Canada.

Mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne’s new CD Alma Oppressa, recorded with the Clavecin en Concert and Luc Beauséjour, features arias by Vivaldi and Handel as well as a few short instrumental pieces taken from their operas. It’s a pleasing combination of the dramatic and the more lyrically relaxed, though as pretty much all these arias were written for star castrati it’s also highly virtuosic. The first two numbers give a very good sample of what’s to come. The title track, from Vivaldi’s La fida ninfa is dramatic and allows Ms. Boulianne to use the darker colours of her voice to good effect as well as providing coloratura hijinks. “Sovvento il sole” from the same composer’s Andromeda Liberata is much more lyrical. Indeed, it’s very beautiful with a haunting melody line and an interesting dialogue between voice and violin. It shows off both the brighter tones of the voice and her very attractive lower register. The Vivaldi pieces will likely not be too familiar to most opera goers but there are much better known Handel pieces on the CD including “Lasci ch’io pianga” from Rinaldo and “Cara speme questo core” from Giulio Cesare. The latter shows off the brighter side of the voice as befits an aria for a juvenile character. The twelve piece band, with Beauséjour directing from the harpsichord is quite excellent. They provide a brisk and transparent accompaniment to the arias and sound really excellent in their three short instrumental pieces. I think this is a sensible sized ensemble for this music and probably not far away from what the composers would have expected.

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The Human Passions

RodolfoRichter-media-room-thumbnailTafelmusik’s opening concert of the season, The Human Passions, was structured around the idea that baroque composers use the soloist in a piece; instrumentalist or vocalist, to explore an emotion and that, in the baroque world, from this point of view, the human voice is just another instrument to be explored/exploited.  At least I think that’s more or less what Rodolfo Richter said in his introduction.

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This week

MLebel Color Portrait1I think it’s about time I started doing a weekly preview of upcoming Toronto events.  I’m going to try and make this in a regular slot, probably Sunday, so this is a bit late.  The main event this week is the opening of Tafelmusik’s season with a concert featuring mezzo Mireille Lebel.  It’s a pretty mixed line up.  Lebel will perform arias from Vivaldi’s Il Farnace, and Handel’s Alcina, Ariodante, and Rinaldo. Dominic Teresi performs Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in F Major, RV 485, and Rodolfo Richter performs his own violin transcription of Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052.  The opening bash is tomorrow night at 7pm with repeats at 8pm on Friday and Saturday and a matinée on Sunday.  Trinity St. Paul’s of course.

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To Die, to Sleep

mtaylorBerlin based Canadian countertenor Michael Taylor’s album To Die, to Sleep is a collection of baroque arias recorded with the Quebec baroque chamber ensemble The Dansant.  The 15 arias are drawn from assorted Handel operas, mostly Orlando, from Vivaldi’s Orlando Furioso and Graun’s Montezuma (the Frederick the Great opera).  There are also some instrumental tracks with short pieces by de Murcia, Handel and Gabrielli.  As you might guess from the title the material is more contemplative than bravura which might disappoint the fireworks fans but makes for very pleasant, relaxed listening.  Mr. Taylor has a distinctly full sound for a countertenor and is clearly very much at home in this repertoire.  The accompaniment, on period instruments is interesting and tasteful. It’s worth a listen.  It’s available on iTunes (C$9.99) or from