Last night the Talisker Players and guest artists presented a series of readings and vocal pieces on the theme of winged creatures. It was a very varied programme with the readings, winningly read by actor R.H. Thomson, ranging from Albert Manguel to Peter Matthiessen. The readings also provided time for the set-up to be changed between numbers with minimum tedium.
The music was also very varied, ranging from Telemann to John Plant’s Sandpiper of 2011 with the rest being drawn from 20th century works from Pärt, Copland, Hoiby, Gideon and Foss. The ensemble changed constantly with various combinations of strings, woodwind, piano, continuo and percussion. Continue reading →
Last night Tapestry and the Wilfred Laurier University Faculty of Music co-presented a workshop of Ruth, a new piece by Jeffrey Ryan to a libretto by Michael Lewis MacLennan. It’s not exactly an opera, perhaps more like one of Britten’s Church Parables. It is quite short; one act of nine scenes, six of which were given in full last night with a read through of the three not yet set. The whole piece lasted maybe an hour. The emphasis is very much on the voices; three soloists and the choir. Last night it was given with piano accompaniment but the composer suggested that it would work for either organ and/or a small ensemble.
English National Opera’s new season includes two Christopher Alden productions that originated at COC. Die Fledermaus is brilliant and a must see. Rigoletto may be a bit more of an acquired taste though it certainly has its strong points. The London cast for Fledermaus doesn’t look as strong (to me) as the Toronto cast but the Rigoletto has the estimable Quinn Kelsey in the title role, Barry Banks as the Duke and Anna Christy as Gilda.
John Terauds may have proclaimed the death of the art song recital in Toronto, and he may even have a point about recitals with high ticket prices, but the line up outside the Four Seasons Centre yesterday for a recital of French chansons rather suggests that the taste for the form has not gone away. The admirably chosen programme of songs, mainly by Poulenc with some Ravel and Milhaud thrown in, was performed by members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio.
Chris Paul Harman’s La selva de los relojes (The Forest of Clocks) had its premier at the Four Seasons Centre at lunchtime today. It’s a setting of some very beautiful texts from Lorca’s Suites scored for mezzo, harp, piano/celeste, flute, clarinet, cello, percussion and tape. The tape consists of sections of the texts read by Martha de Francisco. Sometimes the text comes from the tape, sometimes it’s sung by mezzo, sometimes it’s spoken by the mezzo and at other times they overlap. The accompaniment is mostly very spare but occasionally becomes surprisingly dense with lots of work for tuned percussion. There are also some unconventional roles for the instruments, especially the flute, and there is a whistled passage for the singer near the end. All in all it’s very 21st century; decidedly modern but quite approachable. And did I say the texts are gorgeous? Continue reading →
Last night Opera Five staged a double bill of two one act Spanish operas from the first quarter of the twentieth century. The first was de Falla’s El retablo de maese Pedro. This was written as a puppet opera blending a chivalric tale about the days of Charlemagne with an intervention by an increasingly angry Don Quixote. Structurally it’s an interesting piece with the story being told to a quite simple vocal line by the soprano (Rachel Krehm) playing the puppet master’s boy with interruptions by her boss (Conrad Siebert) and, increasingly, by the one man audience, Don Quixote (Giovanni Spanu). In between the action is acted out by shadow puppets accompanied by a a rather lush “soundtrack”. Finally Don Quixote loses patience with the whole thing and tears down the set before going on a rant about the virtues of knights errant and himself in particular. Staged as a sort of children;s game by director Aria Umezawa, it played very well to this company’s strengths. It was well sung, clever, funny, irreverent and enormously enjoyable. Music director Maika’i Nash once again did that thing I find incredible,m impersonating a whole orchestra on piano, this time with some help from Conrad Siebert on various percussion instruments.
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.