Best of 2016

anthraxIt’s that time of year when it’s traditional to do best of the year lists.  Fortunately this is all about music because in most other respects 2016 was a bit of a horror show.  So here goes.  As far as opera proper was concerned it was a pretty good year.  There were no real howlers in the COC’s season.  It was solid and, at its best, better than that,  For me, Ariodante was the standout; an intelligent, thought provoking production backed up by extremely good acting and singing.  I was really expecting to like the Claus Guth Marriage of Figaro more than I did.  I enjoyed it but I was a bit perplexed by the lightening up that had taken place since Salzburg in 2006.  Opera Atelier had their best show in quite a while with Lucio Silla but even Wallis Giunta couldn’t save a misconceived Dido and Aeneas.

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Deb Voigt in recital

Deborah Voigt appeared with Brian Zeger at Koerner Hall last night.  I guess I was expecting something rather more ebullient from Ms. Voigt but what we got was a perfectly decent, slightly low key, recital with a heavy emphasis on American repertoire and very little banter, though she did unwind a bit toward the end of the program.

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Deb Voigt and Brian Zeger at Carnegie Hall 2007

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The next couple of weeks

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Yes, I know that’s not Marjorie…

I’m out of town for the first week of November or so so this week’s preview will actually cover two weeks.  Lots of endings coming up with the last OA Dido and Aeneas this afternoon and the COC’s fall season closing with Ariodante on Thursday and Norma on Friday.  There’s also Centre Stage on Wednesday.  I shall be curious to see what people think.

On to next weekend and there are a couple of items of interest.  Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 3pm at Grace Church on the Hill Bicycle Opera Project are collaborating with Pax Christi Chorale in performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah.  Here’s the blurb:

In this unique presentation of a classic oratorio, Bicycle Opera’s singers will shed formal concert format in favour of a dramatic exploration of Elijah, while staying true to our intimate and accessible style.

Soloists are Geoff Sirett, Chris Enns, Marjorie Maltais and Larissa Koniuk.

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Conservatory 16/17

Adrianne-Pieczonka-4-credit-Johannes-IfkovitsThe Royal Conservatory announced the concert line up for the 2016/17 season last night.  As usual it’s a very eclectic mix with over 100 concerts in a rather staggering variety of genres.  The one loose them is the Canada Sesquicentennial with 70% or so of the line up having some CanCon.  Here are the highlights for the classical vocal music fan.

Koerner Hall will feature recitals by Deb Voigt (November 11th) and Natalie Dessay (May 2nd) plus Phillippe Jaroussky with Les Violins du Roy (April 13th).

The GGS fall opera is Viardot’s Cendrillon with Peter Tiefenbach as music director in Mazzoleni Hall (November 18th and 19th).  The big spring production, at Koerner, will be Piccini’s La Cecchina with Les Dala conducting (March 15th and 17th).  No word on directors yet.  There’s also the GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall on February 4th.

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Royal Conservatory 16/17

dessayThe Royal Conservatory is the latest to announce its 2016/17 season, or at least the Koerner Hall component.  There’s the usual eclectic mix of orchestral, instrumental, chamber, vocal, jazz and world music.  The vocal highlights are recitals by Deb Voigt and Nathalie Dessay and the annual Christmas visit by the King’s Singers.

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Dessay is a spectacular Zerbinetta

A recording featuring Deb Voigt and Natalie Dessay, both high on my list of singers I’d like to party with, obviously has to be seen.  They feature in a 2003 recording of Ariadne auf Naxos from the Met.  It’s a Moshinsky production, directed for this run by Laurie Feldman.  It’s pretty traditional in most respects though there are some interesting touches in the second act.  We are squarely in the house of the richest man in Vienna c. 1750.  No Konzept here.  In fact, the first act is traditional too in that the acting is broad, going on coarse grained.  Dessay brings a touch of distinction, managing to effectively portray the more vulnerable side of Zerbinetta.  Voigt too is very fine, and very much with the overall mood, as a completely over the top stroppy diva.  She’s definitely playing for laughs.  Susanne Mentzner’s Composer and Wolgang Brendel’s Music Master are both quite competent but suffer a bit from the pantomime acting the director appears to want.

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Now includes dwarf tossing

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is opera on a grand scale.  Only a really big company like the Met could possibly afford to stage it.  Yesterday’s performance used a chorus of 110, a larger orchestra, at least twelve soloists and a bunch of dancers.  It also lasted 5 1/2 hours including the intervals.  Was it worth it?  For the most part I’d say yes.

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