So it’s that time of year when Christmas records start appearing. The latest to come my way consists of musical settings by Rob Kapilow of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express and Dr. Seuss’ Gertrude McFuzz. Yes, it’s American and aimed at kids and if you were to place it on a spectrum of Christmas music that ran from Frosty the Snowman to Carols from King’s it would be decidedly closer to the former. Continue reading
Claus Guth’s 2006 production of Ariadne auf Naxos recorded at the Opernhaus Zürich in 2006 is a compelling piece of theatre. It’s one of those Regietheater pieces that combines a workable concept with compelling Personenregie to create a whole that’s extremely illuminating. The entire Vorspiel is played out, in modern dress, in front of a grey curtain. We get an immediate idea of how Guth is going to explore/exploit metatheatricality as soon as the Haushofmeister appears. He’s played by none other than Zürich Intendant Alexander Pereira. Who is calling the shots? This is reinforced when he drops the bombshell that the opera seria must be combined with Zerbinetta’s farce. This speech is delivered by Pereira from among his guests in the Intendant’s box. It’s very clever. But there’s so much more going on during the Vorspiel. The Komponist is getting seriously deranged; perhaps even more so after he begins his infatuation with Zerbinetta. There’s a moment when it looks like a love triangle is being set up. The diva just gives one look that suggests that she’s got her eyes on the Komponist. It’s a typical moment. A look, a gesture, seems to convey so much. It all concludes with the deranged Komponist shooting himself.
There’s a performance of Dean Burry’s children’s opera The Scorpion’s Sting on Saturday 29th Novemeber at 11am at the ROM. It’s free with museum entrance and forms part of an Ancient Egypt themed day of special presentations. It’s being performed by the COC Ensemble Studio and is suitable for kids aged 8-14 or thereabouts. More details here.
Next week the University of Toronto Opera Division will be staging HMS Pinafore; the first Gilbert and Sullivan at the MacMillan for 25 years. There are four performances; at 7.30pm on the 27th, 28th and 29th and a 2.30pm matinée on the 30th. Following UoT practice it is double cast. The cast for the 27th and 29th includes Charles Sy, a finalist in the COC’s Centre Stage next week as well, and Karine White. They are probably the two singers from UoT who have most impressed me this year and are definitely worth hearing. Michael Albano directs and Sandra Horst conducts. Tickets are $40 adult, $25 senior, $10 student.
It’s nearly five years since I saw the MetHD broadcast of Carmen with Alagna and Garanča. I remember being quite impressed at the time. Watching it again on Blu-ray I came away with a less favourable impression. It’s not that it’s bad. It’s not. It just feels a bit lacklustre in a very crowded field. Let’s start with the positives. Elina Garanča is a very good Carmen. She sings superbly and grows into the role dramatically as the work progresses. She’s also a very good dancer and the production exploits that. In fact dance is used very well throughout with specialist dancers used to stage a sort of prologue to each act as well as the obvious places being reinforced with “real” dancers. As always, the Met doesn’t stint on this element and the dancers used are first rate.
Last night was the second annual fundraiser for St. Michael’s ICU in memory of Elizabeth Krehm. The work for the evening was Beethoven’s 9th symphony; an ambitious project for what amounts to a pick up orchestra and chorus with minimal rehearsal time. The orchestra, most competently conducted by Evan Mitchell did not disappoint. Ensemble was excellent and the sound at times thrilling. The choir sang with great enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment but the sound was a little “churchy” where something richer might have been preferred, though maybe in not in the resonant church acoustic. In any event that’s a nit in the overall scheme of things. The quartet of soloists was very good indeed. The guys get the exposed bits and both bass Jeremy Bowes and tenor Adrian Kramer sang out clearly and powerfully with excellent diction. The ladies too; soprano Rachel Krehm and alto Erin Lawson, clearly projected their lines over and through the orchestra and chorus. All in all it was most impressive and enjoyable. It was also well attended so hopefully the goal of raising lots of money for St. Mike’s was achieved.
Phyllida Lloyd’s 2000 BBC film of Britten’s Gloriana, based on her production for Opera North, is quite fascinating. The bonus interviews reveal the utter disdain for films/videos of stage opera productions held by pretty much everyone involved in the project. It’s an interesting perspective to hear in a world where Cinema and streaming HD broadcasts are increasingly common and where Blu-ray/DVD has clearly overtaken CD as the preferred medium for opera recordings. In some ways, of course, it’s because the technology has improved enormously. DVD was still relatively new in 2000 and widescreen, flat screen TVs were yet to come. In any event, this attitude led to the creation of a rather interesting film.