A different take on Tosca

For quite some time I have wondered whether it’s possible to reinterpret Puccini’s Tosca or whether the specificity as to time and place in the libretto makes it effectively impossible?  Indeed I had never even seen it tried.  All this despite the many and obvious anachronisms in the libretto.  All the Toscas I had seen were clearly set in Rome in that one week in 1800 (or at least the implausible version of it that’s contained in the libretto)!  Phillip Himmelmann’s production for the 2017 Baden-Baden Easter Festival breaks the mould in giving it a contemporary, or perhaps near future, setting.

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Your chance to be an opera star

Signal boosting for the good folks at Against the Grain…

Against the Grain Theatre, Opera Columbus and Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity seeking members for virtual chorus extravaganza

Singers across the globe encouraged to submit videos to be considered for groundbreaking musical experiment

TORONTO — Against the Grain Theatre, along with co-producers Opera Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, Alberta, are developing Christoph Willibald Gluck’s most famous work, Orphée et Eurydice (Berlioz version). Premiering in 1762, the opera was in the vanguard, changing the way that the musical form was experienced. This interpretation of the opera—while staying true to the music and feel of the Baroque original—will place the work firmly in the 21st century with new electronic orchestration, baroque burlesque dancers, sopranos singing from silks, and aerial dancers. Most importantly, the co-producers are seeking singers of all types who are interested in becoming part of the production’s virtual chorus.

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Hvorostovsky dead at 55

2422-hvorostovsky_1The death of Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was announced a couple of hours ago.  It’s no secret that he had been suffering from brain cancer for some time but, still, 55 is far too young.  I’ll remember him for one of the oddest recitals I’ve ever been to.  Not that his performance was odd, rather it was excellent, but because his “fan club”, which appeared to be made up of Russian women of a certain age, were the noisiest people I have ever seen in Koerner Hall, on or off stage.

I’ll also remember him for the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin which may well be the very best to come out of the Met HD series.  He had an interesting and not unproblematic life.  You can read all about it in Anthony Tommasini’s thoughtful obituary in the New York Times.

Kammer Mahler

darryledwardsI went to Walter Hall last night to see a couple of Mahler works in chamber reduction played by the Faculty Artists Ensemble conducted by Uri Mayer.  I think I like Mahler in chamber reduction a lot.  With one instrument to a part complex textures become clearer.  No doubt there are conductors that can produce that clarity with a big orchestra but there are also, sadly, too many who reduce it to a grisly stew of unidentified body parts.  It also allows singers to be heard without screaming.  The only time I want to hear a tenor sounding like a goat being slaughtered is in that Dean Burry piece.  I guess chamber reduction might not work for, say, the 8th Symphony but for the orchestral song cycles, the 4th Symphony, and, I’d hazard a guess, the 2nd Symphony I like it just fine.

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This looks interesting

Here’s the blurb for a new piece being presented in Toronto this Thursday…

CoyoteinacanoeIn 1885 Louis Riel proclaimed, “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” And so we bring you Voice of a Nation, an interdisciplinary concert featuring dance, orchestra, and theatre. Presented by Ontario’s première touring ensemble, the Toronto Concert Orchestra led by Kerry Stratton, in recognition of Canada’s 150th year, concert highlights include a new orchestral song-cycle based on the Métis poet Marilyn Dumont’s A Really Good Brown Girl, composed by Métis composer Ian Cusson, directed by Michael Mori, and sung by Métis Mezzo-Soprano Rebecca Cuddy; a reimagining of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire de Soldat by First Nations choreographer Aria Evans featuring the shapeshifting Trickster; and Perspectives, a new text by the Scarborough youth collective Couronne du Canada also composed by Cusson.

It’s at Grace Toronto Church on Jarvis at 7.30pm.  Ticket details here here.

Magic Flute for kids

The Met’s abridged version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in English, got an HD broadcast in 2006 and a subsequent DVD release.  It’s Julie Taymor’s production and it’s visually spectacular with giant sets, loads of very effective puppets and very good dancers (I wish every opera company used dance as effectively as the Met.  Too expensive I guess).  It’s more something one might expect to see at Bregenz than at the Four Seasons Centre.  Costuming is sometimes a bit weird.  The Three Ladies have removable heads and the chorus of priests look like origami angels but it’s never less than interesting visually. There’s nothing about the cuts (it comes in at about an hour and threequarters) that changes the plot in any way that makes it obviously kid friendly beyond being shorter and there’s no attempt to make it anything other than a pretty fairy tale.  If one wants a Flute with deep meaning this isn’t it.

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Renaissance Splendours

I think I may have been missing out a bit with the Toronto Consort.  I’ve been to the odd show that’s been identifiable as music theatre such as their excellent Play of Daniel but until I sat down with David Fallis and Laura Pudwell a few weeks ago I didn’t really have a clear sense of what they are about.  Last night’s concert, Renaissance Splendours, at Trinity St. Paul’s, gave me a pretty good idea of what I’ve been missing and how it fits into my musical universe.

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