Soundstreams have announced their 2020/21 season and hopefully we will get to see some of it! As ever there’s loads of good stuff starting with Steve Reich being in Toronto for his 85th birthday in April 2021. Other stuff that gets me excited includes:
Huang Ruo’s The Book of Mountain and Seas as part of 21C at Koerner in January 2021. This features the vocal ensemble Ars Nova Copenhagen and puppets!
Chan Ka Nin’s A Dragon’s Tale. It’s a co-pro with Tapestry and promises a waterfront extravaganza of western and eastern musical traditions. That’s coming in June next year.
May 2021 sees a line up of Toronto’s finest performing works by Claude Vivier plus a new commission from Christopher Mayo. That’s going to be in the very intimate Temerty Theatre at the RCM
Plus Electric Messiah, Encounters and more. Full details here.
Last night marked the last performance I plan on seeing before the holidays so it’s time for the annual “best of” posting. So what did your scribe enjoy or admire the most in 2019? Let’s look at it by categories.
Fully staged opera with orchestra
The COC had a decent year but two of their shows stood out for me. David McVicar’s production of Rusalka in October was perhaps all round the best thing the COC have done in years. The production was clever in that interrogated the material enough to ask lots of questions for those willing to think about them without doing anything to upset those not so interested. Musically one really can’t imagine hearing Rusalka sung or played better anywhere in the world. The other winner was Elektra in January. The orchestra and the singing was the winner here, especially Christine Goerke, but the production was better than average and we don’t see enough of the great modern classics in the Four Seasons stage.
I sat down yesterday with Danielle MacMillan who will sing Agni in Against the Grain’s upcoming production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus. Kopernikus is subtitled A Ritual Opera for the Dead and concerns the experience of transitioning from life to death as experienced by Agni. I had many questions:
What was the music like? After all Vivier is not your “typical” composer.
What’s the nature of the production?
What does it feel like to play a dead person?
And a few more things that bubbled up as we talked. So here’s a summary.
Against the Grain Theatre have announced an ambitious 2018/19 season. There are two main stage shows. The first is Bound, which had a first workshop outing in December 2017. It’s still a work-in-progress but there have been significant developments. Kevin Lau has been commissioned to inject his contemporary themes, music and ideas into the original music by Handel. Instead of piano there will be a chamber orchestra led by AtG Music Director Topher Mokrzewski with digital sound artist Acote. The cast will include soprano Miriam Khalil, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor Andrew Haji, and baritone Justin Welsh. This workshop will be presented in Longboat Hall at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on November 19th, 20th and 21st, 2018. For me, the acid test will be whether the dramaturgy and the text has been tightened up.
Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende had to wait until 35 years after the composer’s death for its first fully staged performance. That happened last night at Crow’s Theatre under the auspices of Soundstreams. It forms the main and concluding part of a really interesting show directed by Chris Abraham.
The first part of the program is a monologue, Il faisait nuit, of Vivier returning to his Paris apartment and describing his life and his final composition. Written by Zack Russell and brilliantly played by Alex Ivanovici it’s a French/English piece based on extensive discussions with people who knew Vivier and is said to capture his verbal and physical mannerisms with uncanny accuracy. It also introduces us to key design elements of the evening. We, the audience, are lining the walls of a “black box”. The set is created by lighting effects and there is an electronic sound track. It’s a very immersive experience. Continue reading →
Soundstreams have announced an intriguing line up for the 2017/18 season. There are five main stage shows plus three in the Ear Candy series. For vocal music fans there’s a lot to like starting with a multi-media presentation of Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende. Stage director Chris Abraham and music director John Hess combine with Choir 21 to create a “ritual” about exile, immigration and “otherness”. Performances will be at Crow’s Theatre with a run from October 27th to November 4th 2017.
There was a sort of mini Schoenberg Fest at the TIFF Lightbox yesterday. First up we got Topher Mokrzewski and Adanya Dunn with Claude Vivier’s Hymnen an die Nacht and five pieces from Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The Vivier was a very apt choice; a piece of CanCon in the spirit of the Schoenberg. Topher may not like Schoenberg but he certain;y knows how to play it and Adanya, in my opinion, is at her considerable best in music of this type. Good start.
Conductor Brian Current and the Glenn Gould School New Music Ensemble presented three pieces, one of them a world premiere, today in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. The performances were prefaced by a really rather informative and informal chat by Brian on “how to listen to contemporary music”. It was engaging and totally non-patronising.
And so to the music. The first piece was Marco Stroppo’s 1989 piece élet… fogytigian, dialogo immaginario fra un poeta e un filosofo; a piece evoking an imaginary dialogue between a Hungarian poet and an Italian philosopher who never actually met, or so the composer told us. The first movement was bright and aggressive, very much in the European manner of the 70s and 80s with the second even more explosive before, in the third movement, settling into an exploration of string colour. The composer explained this as being like three walls of a house, painted different colours, slowly rotating. It’s the kind of piece one needs to hear more than once.