Mercadante’s I due Figaro(1) is one of a number of operas that continue the story of Figaro, Almaviva etc into a third instalment. It sets a libretto by Felice Romani based on Les deux Figaro by Honoré-Antoine Richaud Martelly. It premiered in Madrid in 1835 but was lost for many years before being rediscovered in 2009 and given at the 2011 Ravenna Festival. Yesterday in got its Canadian premier at VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert.
Off Centre Music Salon’s opening concert of the season featured a largely Russian, largely 19th century program. There were plenty of songs by Glinka, Tchaikovsky and the like sung by an interestingly contrasted mix of Ilana Zarankin, Joni Henson and Ryan Harper with Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin accompanying. It was good to hear Joni in this program in the warm acoustic of Trinity St. Paul’s. I think I’ve mostly heard her in the RBA which is notoriously hard on dramatic sopranos. Here the combination of the acoustic and Russian vowel sounds resulted in a very pleasing richness of tone rather than stridency. She also blended well with Harper’s very tenorish tenor and made an interesting contrast with the much lighter, brighter Zarankin. Nice work all round.
Off Centre Music Salon concluded their 2015/16 season with their 21st annual Schubertiad concert. It kicked off, in normal OC style with young artists. In this case Kallas and Vikas Chari with a very competent rendering of the Allegro vivace from the Marches Militaires. Then it was onto the main event; tenor Jeffrey Ollarsaba and Boris Zarankin performing Die Schöne Müllerin. It was good. Ollarsaba has quite a light, bright, rather pretty tenor and he can float rather beautiful high notes. I don’t know how it would go in a big opera house but it was well suited to the music and the relatively intimate Trinity St. Paul’s. His diction and phrasing were close to ideal and his vocal acting was appropriately expressive without getting histrionic. Some would consider him a bit over demonstrative in the hand and face gestures department but that rather seems to be the American way with lieder. Zarankin accompanied sensitively. He can play quite beautifully but he was also quite aggressively percussive in the more dramatic sections. All in all most satisfying. The concert concluded with Ilana Zarankin and clarinetist Colleen Cook joining Boris for Der Hirt aus dem Felsen. It’s a curious work; somewhere between a lied and a concert aria with it’s many repeated sections and variations. There was some really beautiful clarinet playing here which worked very well with Ilana’s bright timbre. So, a pleasant way to spend an April Sunday afternoon but a bit of a downer to head out of a concert that pretty much concludes with “Der Frühling will kommen, Der Frühling, meine Freud'”into a snowstorm. Some Frühling!
The coming week may be the last quiet one before May madness sets in. This afternoon Off Centre Music Salon have their 21st annual Schubertiad. Ilana Zarankin and Jeffrey Ollarsarba will sing Die Schöne Müllerin and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen with Boris Zarankin and Ina Perkiss at the piano. It’s at 3pm at Trinity St. Paul’s. Apart from that there’s really only (only!) the opening of the COC’s production of Bizet’s Carmen on Tuesday. That, of course, is at the Four Seasons Centre.
Last night I braved the storm to catch an intriguingly curated show at Trinity St. Paul’s. Talisker Players’ Spirit Dreaming was a selection of music in which “western” composers explore the ideas of colonized peoples through the medium of vocal chamber music. The music was interspersed with readings from creation myths from around the world. It was very interesting to see how changing ideas of “cultural appropriation” and different cultural contexts; French and British colonies, Brazil, northern Finland, influenced works which range in time from the 1920s to the 2010s.
So, my second DMA recital of the week. This time that fine collaborative pianist Lara Dodds-Eden. Walter Hall was alive with sound before the recital proper started with Ben McCarthy’s electronic piece menagerie playing over the speakers; birdsong, rainforest and crackly vinyl. The first piece on the program proper was Fauré’s La chanson d’Ève sung by Danika Lorèn. These songs are a good showcase for Danika’s many excellent qualities. It was all there. The diction, the easy upward extension, the beautiful and varied colours. Nice! And a good start for Lara showing her sympathetic qualities in classical artsong.
Next up was Alex Samaras with Ned Rorem’s As Adam Early in the Morning. Alex is an interesting singer with a background in a variety of styles of which classical tenor probably isn’t one so it was a very different take on the Rorem than I might have expected. This was proving to be quite an enterprising program. Szymanowski’s Mythes for violin (Sheila Jaffé) and piano was also an enterprising choice. It’s a good piece for showing off musicianship and sensitivity to the modern idiom and good to have a chance for Lara to show a skill other than accompanying a vocalist.
Yesterday was slightly bizarre in that I was at two concerts of contemporary, or at least very modern, music. The first was at lunchtime in The RBA where the Array Ensemble presented two works by female Canadian composers; Linda Catlin Smith’s Hieroglyphs and Barbara Monk Feldman’s Love Shards of Sappho, both for soprano and chamber ensemble. Continue reading →
The opening concert of Off Centre Music Salon’s season was a programme of Russian romantic and post romantic works, songs and piano pieces, entitled Russia Cast Adrift. The first half of the afternoon was devoted to the sort of songs that explain why “smert” is one of about six Russian words that I recognize. It kicked off with a Rachmaninoff prelude played with vigour by William Leathers before going into a series of songs by Sviridov, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Glière, Arensky and Mussorgsky. The singing was shared by soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Emilia Boteva, tenor Ernesto Ramirez and baritone Geoffrey Sirett with Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at the piano.
The Talisker Players latest offering is a concert titled On a Darkling Plain. It’s an ambitious program of 20th and 21st century music interspersed, in the Talisker manner, with selected texts read (very expressively) by Stewart Arnott.
It kicks off with Samuel Barber’s 1931 setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach. It’s a dark and evocative piece for a 21 year old and was sensitively performed by baritone Joel Allison supported by violinists Michelle Ordorico and Andrew Chung, Talisker music director Mary McGeer on viola and Laura Jones on cello. Allison is very young and hasn’t been seen much in Toronto but he seems to have the hallmarks of a lieder singer. He’s expressive and attentive to the text, has an attractive voice but can summon up a surprising amount of volume when he needs it. I was impressed.
Yesterday afternoon saw the final concert of the season for Off Centre Music Salon; the concert series organised by Boris Zarankin and Inna Perkis at the Glenn Gould Studio. This one, as the title suggests, celebrating philanthropy in music by putting together a concert of works by composers who were supported by patrons. It was very much salon style with many short sets by various combinations of performers. There was some instrumental music; an impressive performance of Khachaturian’s Toccata in E flat minor by twelve year old William Leathers, reprised later on accordion by Michael Bridge. Jacques Israelievitch and Boris Zarankin collaborated on a bravura rendition of Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne and Zarankin and Perkis gave their traditional one piano/four hands performance, this time an arrangement of Beethoven’s Egmont overture, which was received with enthusiasm.