It was March 2017 and I was interviewing composer Brian Current over lunch. He mentioned having seen Geoff Sirett bouldering on the wall of the Royal Conservatory atrium and how he had an idea for a site specific opera based on the life of Glenn Gould. Eventually this became Gould’s Wall with a libretto by Liza Balkan. Announced and rescheduled more than once due to COVID it premiered last night under the auspices of Tapestry Opera and the conservatory’s 21C series.
The COC’s production of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi directed by Amy Lane is now available to watch for free, for the next six months, at coc.ca/watch . It’s given a 1950s Italian setting but otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward approach reliant on good ensemble directing and acting, which it gets. It’s livened up by video projections by Alexander Gunnarsson, which come over really very well on the film.
The most substantial offering I’ve seen this week is a concert from Toronto Summer Music that aired last night. It was a song recital by four of the Toronto’s better known young singers with Steven Philcox on piano. Simona Genga sang some Mahler and some interesting songs by the Basque composer Jésus Gurudi (new to me!). Clarence Frazer gave us excerpts from Die Schöne Müllerin plus three songs by Butterworth. No prizes for guessing which three but they were well done. Jamie Groote sang a set of Jake Heggie songs plus Strauss’ Beim Schlafengehen. Always excellent to hear Strauss sung well. Asitha Tennekoon rounded things off with a set from Wolff’s Mörike Lieder and songs by Holman (Fair Daffodils; obligatory CanCon), Gurney and Finzi. It’s all high class stuff and there’s about 90 minutes of singing. The platform is Vimeo and it looks and sounds good. It’s free and available here.
Toronto Operetta Theatre’s latest offering is a webstream of Emmerich Kálmán’s 1915 operetta The Csárdás Princess (Die Csárdásfürstin) presented here in English with the usual minor tweaks to the dialogue including obligatory Rob Ford jokes, which have become something of a TOT tradition. The plot turns on the fact that an Austro-Hungarian aristo, let alone a second cousin of the Emperor, can’t marry someone with fewer than 64 quarterings on their coat of arms, let alone a cabaret singer. Implausible impersonations etc abound and love triumphs in the end. It’s all entirely harmless for heaven forfend that anything satirical might have made it past the Vienna censorship, especially in wartime. And there’s no sex because this isn’t France. The humour mostly turns on Hungarian antipathy for their Austrian masters. It’s light hearted and very tuneful fun.
Do you remember back when real live musicians used to perform for a real live audience? Well some mad dudes are trying to revive it. Tapestry Opera have some shows in conjunction with Canadian Stage coming up in High Park. July 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th you can catch the show “Box Concerts” that Tapestry have been taking around health care facilities and offering for private booking. It’s PWYC. Booking is via Canadian Stage. Also on the 17th at 3pm there’s an extended program including excerpts from Rocking Horse Winner where Asitha Tennekoon will be joined by Midori Marsh and Lucia Cesaroni. That’s $50 booked at the same page.
Toronto Operetta Theatre are offering a streamed performance of Emmerich Kálmán’s The Csardas Princess. It’s another film made in the Edward Jackman Studio and with TOT’s usual team in charge. The cast includes Lauren Margison in the title role with Michael Barrett as Prince Edwin. The cast also includes TOT regulars Caitlin Wood as Countess Stasi, Ryan Downey as Boni and Gregory Finney as Feri, Rosalind McArthur and Sean Curran appear as Edwin’s parents Anhilte and Leopold Maria.
The stream will be available from July 9th to 23rd and an access code is $20 plus fees and can be purchased here.
Rachel Krehm and co’s latest project Threepenny Submarine is now live on the Opera 5 Youtube channel. It’s a collaboration between Opera 5 and Gazelle Automations and features two (puppet) singers on a quest in a submarine. It stars Caitlin Wood as a Rossini singing cockatiel with a tidiness fetish, which doesn’t seem terribly like Cait (at least the tidiness thing. Of course she can sing Rossini), and Rachel Krehm as a messy Wagnerian vixen, which sounds about right. It’s designed for kids but it’s quite funny and very cute and should work for kids of all ages.
Sirènes is an album of pieces by Montreal composer Ana Sokolović. The first pice, which gives the album its title, is written for six unaccompanied female voices. It’s performed here by the vocal ensemble of Queen of Puddings Music Theatre conducted by Dáirine Ní Mheadhra. The six ladies in question are Danika Lorèn, Shannon Mercer, Magali Simard-Galdès, Caitlin Wood, Andrea Ludwig, and Krisztina Szabó. It’s an interesting piece and very Sokolović. The text is bent and twisted into sound fragments which are “sung” using an array of extended vocal techniques. The overall effect is of a shimmering, fluttery and quite absorbing sound world.
So, by a perhaps odd coincidence, various singers from Kathy Domoney’s stable are involved in productions of Rossini’s Le comte Ory at assorted Canadian houses in the near future; either as principals or understudies, so why not pull together some sort of performance of the work? That happened last night at Trinity St. Paul’s in a “narrated production” by François Racine. I had some ida what to expect as I had talked to François earlier in the week.
Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus at the St. Lawrence Centre last night. It’s a will crafted production; basically traditional as to costumes and sets and with a generous amount of more topical jokes added to the dialogue (both dialogue and musical numbers are performed in English). The one thing about it that is a bit different and much to be praised is that the jailer Frosch, played by director Bill Silva-Marin, is actually funny and sings pretty well for a guy who doesn’t sing a lot anymore. The schtick is that he is obsessed with singing and insists on singing lessons from Alfred (or here Alfredo) when he appears in the jail in place of Eisenstein. The singing lessons are kind of a parody with plenty of jokes about vocal production and a fair bit of physical humour. All this is actually set up from the beginning by making Alfred a rather larger role than usual with a fair amount of interpolated snatches of Verdi and Puccini. It may not sound that radical but it does liven up the third act which all too often can be pretty dull and anti-climactic.