Yesterday we got the second recital by the song fellows of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. In the week since the first concert they have been working with mentor Soile Isokoski and it showed in the programming. There was quite a bit of Strauss and more Finnish and Swedish music than I have ever heard in such a recital. Among other things this highlighted just how difficult Strauss songs are to sing well. They are exceedingly tricky yet have to sound absolutely effortless. Three of the four sopranos on show tried. None of them succeeded completely(*). So it goes. And so to the details.
The Ukrainian Art Song Project have a couple of events coming up. There’s an opportunity to audit the Summer Institute at the Temerty Theatre at the RCM on August 9th through 11th. Advance registration is required but it’s free. The concluding concert is on Sunday 13th August at 3pm also in the Temerty. Tickets are $25 from the RCM box office or their website. The nine singers include: Taras Chmil, Tenor; Natalya Gennadi, Soprano; Laura McAlpine, Mezzo-Soprano; David McCune, Bass; Viktoriia Melynk, Soprano; Tasha Meisami-Farivar, Mezzo-Soprano; Ariane Meredith, Mezzo-Soprano, Andrew Skitko, Tenor and Oleksandra Verzole, Soprano. They will interpret the works of Ukrainian composers, including Vasyl Barvinsky, Mykola Lysenko and Yasiv Stepovyi.
Meanwhile on July 27th LooseTEA have another improv night with the second Whose Opera is it Anyway?! at the Comedy Bar at 945 Bloor West. Tickets are $12 from the Comedy Bar website. Performers include Greg Finney, Lindsay Sutherland Boal, Adanya Dunn, Jonathan MacArthur, Rachel Krehm, Amanda Cougan, Jeff Boyd, Gillian Grossman and Erin Stone.
Last night, at Walter Hall, Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski and pianist Martin Katz gave a recital as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. The programme of Schumann, Wolf, Strauss and Sibelius was an object lesson in restraint and elegance. There were no histrionics or gimmicks, just very fine, subtly expressive singing and brilliantly supportive pianism.
Yesterday I finally managed to do something bike related in conjunction with Bicycle Opera Project’s current tour of Sweat. I got an early train out to Aldershot, biked to Hamilton and joined up with the bike tour of historic Hamilton organised by the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre to complement the opera, before seeing the afternoon performance of Sweat at WAHC. I’ll add some bikey/historical observations at the end but since this is an opera blog let’s cut to the chase.
Toronto Summer Music Festival has two “apprenticeship” programmes; one for chamber musicians and one for singers and collaborative pianists. The latter is directed by Martin Katz and Steven Philcox. On Saturday afternoon in Walter Hall we got our first chance to see this year’s young artists. Eight singers and four pianists were on show. The singers were a mix of those who are well known to anyone who follows student opera in Toronto and newcomers. The pianists were all new to me.
So after a bit of a hiatus the Toronto music scene is coming back to life. The Toronto Summer Music Festival has kicked off and the main interest for followers of the vocal arts lies in the Art Song fellows project with concerts at 1pm on each of the next two Saturdays in Walter Hall (free but tickets required). Then the vocal highlight of the festival; Soile Isokoski in recital with Martin Katz at 7.30pm on the 18th at Walter Hall. The programme includes the Schumann Mary Stuart songs, the Strauss Ophelia songs plus some Wolf and, of course, Sibelius. Ms. Isokoski is also giving a public masterclass in Walter Hall on the 23rd at 2pm.
The St. Lawrence String Quartet opened this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival with a really interesting programme. They kicked off with the Haydn String Quartet No. 25 in C Major. This very much belied the idea that Haydn is a skilful but not especially inventive composer. It’s full of invention; especially rhythmic and really suited the intensely physical style of the St. Lawrences; especially the hyperkinetic first violin, Geoff Nuttall, who also contributed a rather extraordinary pair of socks to the evening’s festivities. Watching, too, is a different experience from listening and here pointed up the extent to which chamber music like this is a conversation between the players rather than a regimented or choreographed thing.