No Madelaines were harmed in reviewing this DVD. It’s a 1992 recording from the Wiener Staatsoper of, of course, Lohengrin and its main claim to fame is that stars Placido Domingo (note no further jokes about water fowl despite the prominent role of Heinrich der Vogler). It’s one of those DVDs from the 80s and 90s that are a bit frustrating. The singing is very good indeed. Domingo is superb and the rest are at least very good plus Abbado conducts with real flair but the production is dull as ditch water and the video quality is awful.
The other night I was chatting to some folks at a performance by Loose TEA Theatre and a comment was made to the effect that it was companies like Loose TEA and Against the Grain who were creating the future audience for opera. I didn’t think about it much of the time but it turned into a sort of brainworm that wouldn’t go away. I don’t think the idea was that somehow innovative “pop up” type companies would replace the likes of the COC; at least not this side of nuclear war or total economic collapse (neither of which seems impossible it has to be said). So the hypothesis has to be that this sort of endeavour makes a significant contribution to replacing the aging “big house” audience. As i began to mull that over and further stimulated by yet another fact free piece in The Guardian on “opera snobs” (courtesy of Schmopera) I started to develop a number of lines of enquiry that aren’t exactly tangential to the original hypothesis but rather seem more like a set of eigenvectors defining the problem space. Which is a mathematicians way of saying that what follows is kind of all over the place.
I don’t know whether I’d call this opera or not but it’s certainly music theatre and of a rather interesting kind. Obeah Opera is an a cappella theatre piece in which an all-female cast examines the story of the Salem Witch Trials from the perspective of enslaved African women. it’s being workshopped, in preparation for next year’s PANAMANIA; the arts and culture program of the Pan Am games, at the Dancemakers Studio in the Distillery (9 Trinity St, studio 313) on Sept 11, 12 and 13 at 8pm and Sept 14 at 2pm. It’s directed by Weyni Mengesha with music direction by Andrew Craig.
The University of Toronto Faculty of Music has released its schedule of events for the 2014/15 season. There’s a lot of interesting stuff for the opera and vocal music fan (and much else besides). Highlights include:
The first of two major productions is Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore which will play November 27th-30th. Michael Albano directs and Sandra Horst and Russell Braun will share conducting duties. The second, Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, will run March 12th to March 15th with Michael Cavanagh directing and Les Dala conducting. Both shows will be in the MacMillan Theatre.
There have been over thirty operas dealing with Montezuma, last emperor of the Aztecs from Vivaldi in 1733 to Bernhard Lang in 2010. The second such premiered in 1755 and was rather remarkable. The idea originated with Frederick II of Prussia who decided to fit in an opera before his next war against the Austrians. He wrote a french prose libretto which was turned into an Italian text by his court poet Giampietro Tagliazucchi and then set by his court composer Carl Heinrich Graun. It’s pretty clear that frederick identied himself with the idealized enlightened monarch Montezuma, the ultimate noble savage, and his betrayal by forces loyal to the Habsburgs and Catholoicism. The ideas earlier expressed in Anti-Machiavel are very much to the fore as are Fredericks own rather odd ideas on fate and his own mortality(1). Basically this Montezuma is deposed and executed and his world goes up in flames.
The Canadian Opera Company has just announced the 14/15 line up for the free lunchtime (mostly) concerts in the very beautiful Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre. Highlights, from my point of view, include recitals by Jane Archibald, Krisztina Szabó, Lauren Segal, Colin Ainsworth, Joshua Hopkins, Robert Gleadow, Barbara Hannigan and Ekaterina Gubanova. There will also be ten concerts by the Ensemble Studio plus the Quilico competition. The Canadian Art Song Project will showcase Allyson McHardy in a new song cycle by Marjan Mozetich. There’s also a themed series of concerts to commemorate anniversaries of the First and Second World Wars, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. This will comprise six concerts drawn from the Vocal, Chamber Music and Piano Virtuoso programs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are vocal, chamber, piano, dance, jazz and world music programs to suit a very wide range of tastes. And it’s all free. Full details at http://www.coc.ca/PerformancesAndTickets/FreeConcertSeries.aspx
Once in a while one comes across an opera DVD that’s so “ordinary” that it’s extremely difficult to write about it. The 2002 Cagliari recording of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is one such. Stefano Vizioli’s production is set in 1750s Rome and plays the piece about as straight as a madcap comedy can be played. The singing is rather good and, if the acting is a bit Brian Rix farce that’s hardly inappropriate. At the heart of the piece is Alessandro Corbelli who must be close to being the ideal Pasquale. He gets good support from Eva Mei as Norina and Antonino Siragusa as Ernesto. Roberto de Candia is also quite good as Malatesta but he’s not Mariusz Kwiecien. The chorus is a lot livelier than the average Italian chorus and the orchestra, from Bologna, might be a bit thin on string tone but isn’t bad at all and Gérard Korsten’s conducting is perfectly OK.