Ossian meets Anne of Green Gables

Rossini’s La Donna del Lago is based on the Walter Scott poem, itself a deliberately romantic view of Scottish history, simplified until not much is left but the rivalry for the heroine’s hand by her three suitors and a completely unexplained war between the king of Scotland and the Clan Alpine.  Dramatically it’s thin indeed but it’s Rossini so there is crazy virtuosic music and it’s very hard to cast.  One needs two mezzos; one a mistress of Rossinian coloratura, the other more dramatic, and two tenors; both of which can do the crazy high stuff.  The supporting roles aren’t easy either.  Realistically only a major house could cast this adequately.

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The clutter of bodies

The latest Handel oratorio to be given the operatic treatment by Glyndebourne is Saul, which played in 2015 in a production by Australian Barrie Kosky.  It’s quite a remarkable work.  The libretto, as so often the work of Charles Jennens, takes considerable liberties with the version in Samuel and incorporates obvious nods to both King Lear and Macbeth as well as more contemporary events.  David’s Act 3 lament on the death of Saul, for instance, clearly invokes the execution of Charles I.  What emerges is a very classic tragedy.  Saul, the Lord’s anointed, is driven by jealousy and insecurity deeper and deeper into madness and degradation and, ultimately, death.  This is the basic narrative arc of the piece.

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UoT 2016/17

UoT Faculty of Music have just announced their 2016/17 season.  It’s the usual broad range of performances so I’ll highlight the opera and vocal music contributions.

UoT Opera is offering four shows.  The fall main production is Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld with new English dialogue and stage direction by Michael Patrick Albano.  Choreography i by Anna Theodosakis and Russell Braun makes his podium debut.  There are four performances November 24th to 27th.  Spring sees a Handel rarity; Imeneo.  Tim Albery directs and Daniel Taylor is in charge of the music.  This one runs March 16th to 19th.  Both shows are in the MacMillan Theatre.

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Last year’s student composed opera; The Machine Stops

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Brokeback Mountain

I’ve become a little wary of operas based on best selling novels and/or Hollywood films so I approached Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain with a certain amount of skepticism.  I should not have.  It’s a Gerard Mortier commission; originally for NYCO but, following that débacle, it followed him to the Teatro Real in Madrid where it premiered in 2014.  The libretto is an adaptation by Annie Proulx of her original story.  Always a good sign.

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Mr. Shi and his Lover

In 1986 a French diplomat was sentenced to six years in prison for spying for China.  It began with an affair with a Chinese opera singer who the diplomat claimed to believe to be a woman.  Mr. Shi and his Lover is a piece exploring the relationship and the inner thoughts of the two characters.  It was developed by Macau Experimental Theatre between 2013 and 2015 and got its North American premier in Toronto last night as part of SummerWorks.

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Almost the Last Night of the Proms

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Yes, those flags are stuck to my head

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music Festival concert, continuing the the me of “London Calling” was titled (Almost) the Last Night of the Proms and was a sort of recreation of that weird fusion of music and retro imperialism that hits the Albert Hall once per year.  I went because I was curious.  Toronto is no longer terribly British and it’s also notoriously buttoned down.  Koerner Hall is a 1200 seat concert hall with no promenade space.  The concert wasn’t the celebratory conclusion of eight weeks of promenading.  Could it remotely match the atmosphere of the Last Night and, if not, would there be musical merit enough to make it worthwhile?  The answer, sadly, is not really though some people did try.

 

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