Staging art song and chamber works happens in Toronto but not a lot. Over the last few years I’ve seen interesting shows from Against the Grain, Collectif and UoT Opera among others. As it’s something I tend to enjoy I was pleased to catch the opening performance of Opera 5’s Hindemith and Shostakovich program; itself the first in a proposed series called Open Chambers.
The current Tapestry Briefs show presents work from the 2016 LibLab. It’s all new and, inevitably, very mixed. It started very strongly with a scene, The Call of the Light (Imam Habibi/Bobby Theodore) based on the 1984 attack on the Quebec National Assembly. The combination of an assault rifle carrying camo clad Alex Dobson , the rest of the cast (Jacquie Woodley, Keith Klassen, Erica Iris) writhing on the floor and dissonant extended piano from Michael Shannon was genuinely disturbing. Having a gun pointed straight at you from a few feet away doesn’t happen often at the opera.
The decision by Toronto Masque Theatre to pair Purcell’s miniature opera, Dido and Aeneas, with James Rolfe and André Alexis’ piece on the lovers’ inner thoughts, Aeneas and Dido, paid off last night. It produced an evening of just the right length with two contrasting but complementary pieces working really well together.
Aaron Gervais’ and Colleen Murphy’s Oksana G. finally made it to the stage last night after a most convoluted journey. It’s being produced by Tapestry at the Imperial Oil Theatre with Tom Diamond directing. The wait, I think has been worth it. The story, set in 1997, of a naive country girl from the Ukraine who gets caught up in sex trafficking is dramatic and the it convincingly depicts the sleazy underworld of southern and eastern Europe created by the collapse of the USSR, the civil wars in the Balkans and the pervasive official corruption in countries like Ukraine, Greece and Italy. It’s gritty and, at times, not at all easy to watch.
The COC Orchestra Academy program is a mentorship scheme for young orchestral musicians providing a bridge between student and professional life somewhat akin to the Ensemble Studio for singers and pianists. Today at noon in the RBA we gort the chance to see the current crop in action in all baroque program featuring Jacqueline Woodley as soprano soloist.
Things are still a bit quiet on the vocal music front (the lull before the storm judging by my agenda) but there are a couple of free concerts of interest at noon in the RBA next week. On Tuesday, bass Goran Jurić, currently singing Sarastro at the COC, is teaming up with Anne Larlee in an all Russian program featuring works by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Spiridov. Then on Thursday there’s a concert in the chamber music series featuring the members of the COC orchestra academy. But once again, the chamber series deceives because half of the program (at least) features soprano Jaqueline Woodley in a series of Handel arias. Later, at 7pm at The Fifth Pubhouse, the COC is hosting Opera Trivia Night with trivia master Russell Harder. It’s free but ticketed. Tisckets from coc.ca or the Four Seasons box office. The COC’s Magic Flute continues with the first chance to see the alternative cast on Sunday afternoon (29th) at the Four Seasons Centre, which is pretty close to sold out. No doubt the matinee show will be a lot of kids’ first opera.
Toronto Masque Theatre have announced their 2016/17 season. There are two main stage productions and three salon concerts. First of the main stage shows is a double bill of Handel’s dramatic cantata Apollo and Daphne with Jacqueline Woodley and Geoffrey Sirett and dancer Stéphaie Brochard, directed and choreographed by Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière paired with Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden based on the epic poem by Tennyson, performed by actor Derek Boyes and pianist Angela Park. This one is at 8:00 pm on November 17th, 18th and 19th with a pre-show event at 7:15 pm each evening at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse.