Today’s free lunchtime concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was a preview of Against the Grain’s upcoming Figaro’s Wedding. Its got a brand new English libretto by director Joel Ivany very much along the lines of the La Bohème they did at the Tranzac a few years back; setting the story in today’s Toronto but keeping the basic plot line roughly similar. Today’s show featured excerpts from the piece plus interviews with the characters by Joel. I don’t want to do spoilers but let’s just say it’s very clever and very funny. It’s got a great cast of young local singers and it’s been arranged for piano and string quartet by the amazing Topher Mokrzewski. This is going to be really, really good and I’ve never heard anything get such an enthusiastic reception in the RBA.
The full show is going to play at a real wedding hall, The Burroughes Building at 639 Queen Street West on May 29-31 and on June 2. There’s no show on June 1 because the venue is booked for a wedding! Tickets and more details are available at http://www.againstthegraintheatre.com. Be warned, opening night is already sold out and I expect the remaining nights will also sell ahead of time. This is going to be a hot ticket.
Sorry about the iPhone photo. Expect better ones in due course.
Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury will make her company debut as Violetta at De Nederlandse Opera tonight, replacing Marina Poplavskaya. It’s that Willy Decker production that’s been seen everywhere. Might be worth a look for anyone planning to be in Toronto in the fall as Joyce will sing both Mimi and Musetta in the upcoming La Bohème at COC (though not in the same performances, she’s leaving that to Placido Domingo).
Coming up on Sunday 28th April at 2pm at the Glenn Gould Studio is Celebrating Philanthropists in Musicwhereby Off Centre Music Salon concludes its 18th season, paying tribute to the philanthropists who stood in the shadows behind some of the greatest composers and supported their careers. The program will includes a variety of vocal solos and duets, 1 piano, 4 hands, and violin and piano, performing repertoire by: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Poulenc, Debussy, Chabrier, Ravel and Stravinsky.
Performers include 12 year old pianist William Franklyn Leathers, baritone Peter McGillivrey, soprano Ilana Zarankin, mezzo soprano Lauren Segal, violinist Jacques Israelievitch and accordionist (I kid you not) Joseph Macerollo. They will be accompanied by pianists Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin.
The Toronto opera/recital calendar just keeps on giving. Late April and May are always a bit crazy with the usual three operas on at the COC but there’s a stack more stuff going on. The latest additions to my calendar are a new Queen of Puddings Music Theatre commission La Selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks) by Canadian composer Chris Paul Harman. This vocal chamber work setting texts by Lorca will be performed by Krisztina Szabó and an ensemble of 6 instruments as part of the free lunchtime concert series at the Four Seasons Centre at noon on April 30th. Sadly this will be the last work from Queen of Puddings who are winding up this summer. Next is Ruth, a new opera by Jeffrey Ryan, which will be workshopped by Tapestry at the Distillery on May 4th. Finally there is a Talisker Players show called On the Wing featuring Erin Bardua and Vicki St. Pierre in a birdsong themed programme. It’s playing on May 7th and 8th at the Trinity St. Paul’s Centre.
I’m having a hard time keeping up with everything that’s going on in the Toronto opera scene. The latest thing to hit my inbox is a new show from Opera Five. These are the “food and opera” guys and this time it’s tapas and sangria and Spanish opera. They are doing two pieces; de Falla’s El Retablode maese Pedro, which features puppets, and Granados’ Goyescas, which is based on paintings by Goya. I think the only “puppet opera” I’ve seen before was the mash up of Bastien und Bastienne and Der Schaulspieldirektor that Salzburg did in 2006 so this should be fun.
The show is at Gallery 345 which is at 345 Sorauren and there are three performances on April 29th, May 1st and May 2nd. Tickets are available online at http://o5besame.eventbrite.ca or at the door (cash only).
Calgary, AB… Following an extensive search, Calgary Opera announces the appointment of Christopher Mokrzewski as Resident Conductor.
“Calgary Opera had the opportunity to have Christopher Mokrzewski as repetiteur for a six-week period in October and November,” says General Director and CEO Bob McPhee. “During that time it was very evident that he was the ideal candidate and would bring the appropriate skill set to our company.”
This appointment builds on the success of the previous Resident Conductor, Gordon Gerrard. After three years with the company, Mr. Gerrard won the Enbridge Emerging Artist Award and is now a regular mainstage conductor in Calgary and throughout North America. Most recently he was appointed Assistant Conductor to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Mokrzewski is thrilled by the opportunity to further his skills in collaboration with Calgary Opera. Currently a resident of Toronto, he is the Music Director of Against the Grain Theatre and a regular music staff member at the Canadian Opera Company.
“I am very excited to be joining Calgary Opera,” says Mokrzewski. “To collaborate with such a distinguished and forward-thinking Canadian company is a privilege and a remarkable opportunity. I also look forward to working with its Emerging Artists Development Program, which contains extraordinary young talent and has a strong presence in the Calgary community.”
Calgary Opera would like to thank Canada Council for the Arts for their support of the Resident Conductor program.
I really wanted to highlight this because Topher is an amazing artist and I’m sure this is the first step in a very exciting conducting career. He and Joel Ivany (watch out for that name too) have made Against the Grain Theatre the most exciting thing in Toronto opera since the Four Seasons Centre opened. I hope we’ll still see plenty of Topher in Toronto. Calgary couldn’t have made a better choice.
Just spotted new discount deals on the COC website. For the three spring productions; David Alden’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Robert Carsen’s Dialogues des Carmélites and Atom Egoyan’s Salome, they are offering 25% off if you buy two of the three and 33% off for all three. You get to pick your dates and tickets are available in all sections except the cheapest and most expensive. The 33% deal brings prices down to around season subscription rates. There are also $22 and $35 tickets available for both the under 30s who attend COC performances.
On a per dead nun basis you won’t find cheaper anywhere!
Three shows that might be worth a look are coming up in the GTA. Essential Opera are doing a show called Two Weddings and a Funeral which pairs Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with Donizetti’s Il campanello. It’s at Heliconian Hall on March 15th at 7.30pm. It will be semi-staged with piano accompaniment. Soup Can Theatre are also presenting a double bill of Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Sartre’s No Exit (in English translation). The former will be accompanied by a 14 piece band and the latter, no doubt, by wailing and gnashing of teeth. The show runs March 28th to 30th at the Tapestry Opera Studio in the Distillery district. Finally, Opera Hamilton are presenting Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles at the Dofasco Theatre in Hamilton. This is a fully staged show with full orchestra and features Virginia Hatfield and Brett Polegato. There are four shows from March 9th to 16th. At time of writing no sopranos had been injured by falling scenery.