The death of Canadian soprano Erin Wall at the far too young age of 44 from complications due to metastatic breast cancer was announced a couple of days ago. She was a regular performer in Toronto with both the TSO and the COC, as well as internationally, and a well respected colleague respected for her supportive attitude to younger singers.
This new recording of Britten’s Peter Grimes was recorded from semi-staged performances in the Grieghallen in Bergen in November last year. It’s very good indeed. Of course, there are many good audio and video recordings of this piece going back to the composer’s own version with Peter Pears in the title role; recorded in 1959 and many fine singers have recorded the title role. To stand out from the field, a new recording needs an outstanding Grimes and in Stuart Skelton this version has one. He manages to encompass both the brutal, gritty side of Grimes as well as the more ethereal side. Pears did the latter brilliantly but could never quite manage the grit. Vickers, who practically owned the role in the 1970s, was brutal but didn’t have the voice or the stage skills to bring out the gentler side. Perhaps the first person to really portray the full complexity of the character was the late Philip Langridge and there’s much about Skelton’s portrayal that reminds one of him. It shades toward the delicate most of the time with some lovely singing in “Now the Great Bear” and in the mad scene. But when Skelton needs to be brutal he’s downright scary.
Richard Strauss’ Elektra opened last night in a revised version of James Robinson’s 2007 production. The setting is fairly straightforward and a bit drab; vaguely Victorian, or perhaps Gormenghast, which seems about right for the hagridden House of Atreus. The stage is severely raked; back to front. and stage left to right. There are a couple of walls with entrances. There’s a strange little hut which, it turns out, forms a sort of trap door to the palace. Costumes are either shapeless (ladies) or vaguely reminiscent of evening wear (gentlemen). In this setting the action plays out convincingly enough with even difficult scenes like Elektra’s “death dance” well handled. The tricky scenes between Elektra and Klytämnestra and Elektra and Orest have the appropriate degree of tension and suspense.
Yesterday’s lunchtime concert was my second chance in just over a week to see Erin Wall in recital, in a completely different program from the Mazzoleni gig. There were three sets. First up were Korngold’s Three Songs Op.22. I’m all for more German songs in recitals, especially someone other than the Schus, but I wasn’t really taken with these. They seem closer to the later film music in style than to, say Die tote Stadt. They got the operatic treatment from Erin which is probably not a bad thing here.
It’s a bit of a crazy week coming up. On Monday at 8pm there’s the first in a series of young artists concerts presented by Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu and Yamaha Canada. This one features pianist Cindy Liu in an all Prokofiev program. It’s at Rosemarie’s atelier at 310 Davenport Road and tickets are $20 ($10 student).
Tuesday is a double header with Erin Wall performing at noon in the RBA in a program of Korngold, Debussy and Duparc. Then at 5.30pm at the Canadian Music Centre there’s a CD launch concert for Sing Me at Midnight; the latest recording from CASP featuring songs by John Greer. Both these events are free.
And that wasn’t just the weather that went from balmy to barmy round about verse five of Fauré’s Dans le forêt de Septembre as a cold front hit Mazzoleni Hall with, literally, a bang. Meanwhile the sheltered audience was being treated to a skilfully curated program of art song on the theme of the four seasons sung by Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon with Rachel Andrist and Robert Kortgaard at the piano. There were French chansons, German lieder and English songs with a decent injection of CanCon, with Derek Holman, John Greer, Jean Coulthard and Matthew Emery all represented.
And in the week ahead…
There are still tickets available for Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon at Mazzoleni on Sunday.
On Monday evening at 7.30pm in Walter Hall veteran Canadian mezzo Judith Forst is giving a free master class.
Thursday is the big day. At lunchtime in the RBA you can catch Simone Osborne and Gordon Bintner, currently headlining in L’elisir d’amore on the COC main stage, accompanied by Liz Upchurch (free of course). Later, at 8pm there’s A Tribute to Maureen Forrester at the Symphony. That program features, inter alia, Michael Schade and Susan Platts in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The program will be repeated on Friday at 7.30pm. Last I checked there were still $25 tickets available.
Photo courtesy of the lady herself.
Here’s a preview of things to see/listen to next week. It’s Met in HD season again and the next two Saturdays have broadcasts. On the 7th it’s Bellini’s Norma with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato. It’s a David McVicar production and no prizes for guessing what happens when you cross McVicar and druids. On the 14th it’s Die Zauberflöte with the Resident Groundhog conducting. It’s the Julie Taymor production but given in full in German rather than the abridged ‘for kids” version. The best thing about the cast is René Pape’s Sarastro.
Tim Albery’s production of Richard Strauss’ 1933 opera Arabella, first seen at Santa Fe in 2012, finally made it to Toronto last night. It’s, I believe, a Canadian premiere for the piece, which is a bit shocking for an important opera by a major composer. It’s not a perfect piece. The librettist, the incomparable Hugo von Hofmannsthal, died before he and Strauss could revise the second and third acts and there are places where it feels a bit unfinished but it’s still an impressive work. The plot’s a bit contrived perhaps, though no more so than many more famous operas, but there’s real depth of humanity and Mandryka, the landowner/tribal chief from the southern fringes of the Habsburg empire, is a really fascinating study.
It was an unusual double bill at the TSO last night; the premiere of Alexina Louie’s Triple Violin Concerto and Brahms’ A German Requiem. The concerto is an interesting piece. It’s got a layered, shimmery quality that sounds quite modern without going off into territory that would frighten the punters. It also makes excellent use of the three virtuoso soloists for whom it was written; Jonathon Crow, Yosuke Kawasaki and Andrew Wan; concertmasters respectively of the the TSO, the NAC Orchestra and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. It clever plays the combinations of having soloist dialogue with soloist and soloists dialoguing individually and collectively with the orchestra. Very enjoyable.