Soundstreams have announced an intriguing line up for the 2017/18 season. There are five main stage shows plus three in the Ear Candy series. For vocal music fans there’s a lot to like starting with a multi-media presentation of Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende. Stage director Chris Abraham and music director John Hess combine with Choir 21 to create a “ritual” about exile, immigration and “otherness”. Performances will be at Crow’s Theatre with a run from October 27th to November 4th 2017.
The closing concert of this year’s 21C, presented by Soundstreams at Koerner Hall, featured music by Chris Paul Harman and Unsuk Chin. In the first half we heard two related pieces by Harman based on songs by Ray Noble. The first, Love Locked Out started with a tape recorded interview and a scratchy recording of Al Bowlly before morphing into a complex piece with allusions to the original song. It’s not in any sense a set of variations. Harman’s sound world is complex. It’s very modern and varied. There were warring pianos and tubular bells in passages that were almost violent but which morphed into more playful sections. Parts of the string writing and the transitions reminded me of Shostakovich; though Harman tends to genuinely playful rather than sardonic. But the comparison should not be taken too far because there’s also a tendency to build tension and logic through repetition rather than symphonic development in a vaguely John Adamsish sort of way and there are passages that are meditative à la Messiaen. The piece closed with a slowed down tape of the song. So complex and intriguing stuff very well played by 21C Chamber Orchestra conducted by Guillaume Bourgogne.
Usually this is when things start to quieten down. Not so much this year. On the opera front it does go a bit flat though Opera 5 have their Ethel Smythe double bill opening at Theatre Passe Muraille on the 22nd. There’s also an evening of opera improv; Whose opera is it anyways?! at the Bad Dog Theatre on the 16th organised by Loose TEA theatre. And there’s quite a bit more of interest. Continue reading →
Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron is a very peculiar opera. It’s pretty much an extended debate about the nature of God cast in highly abstract terms. So who better to direct it than the almost unbearably cerebral Romeo Castellucci. Previous encounters with his work have been puzzling, thought provoking (and WTF provoking) but never dull. All those terms could be deployed to describe the production recorded at L’Opéra nationale de Paris in 2015.
Bicycle Opera Project have announced their 2017 tour dates. They will be performing Juliet Palmer and Anna Chatterton’s Sweat. It’s a work about sweatshop labour in the garment industry and is scored for nine voices and no instruments. Sweatwill be directed by Banuta Rubess, conducted by Geoffrey Sirett and designed by Sonja Rainey. The cast includes: Catherine Daniel, Caitlin Wood, Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Lam, Larissa Koniuk, Justine Owens, Emma Char, Alexandra Beley and Cindy Won.
Last night’s Canadian Art Song Project, part of the Conservatory’s 21C festival, was sold out. Yep, a sold out concert of contemporary Canadian art song not featuring an A-list singer. Clearly Mercury is in retrograde or something. Anyway, the first half of the concert featured baritone Iain MacNeil with one of my favourite collaborative pianists Mélisande Sinsoulier. They gave us Lloyd Burritt’s The Moth Poem to texts by Robin Blaser. This is a basically tonal work with a piano part that I found more interesting than the vocal writing (common enough in contemporary art song). There was some nice delicate singing from Ian and complete mastery of the intricate piano part by Mélisande. Andrew Staniland’s setting of Wallace Stevens’ Peter Quince at the Clavier followed. This is a more ambitious work with quite a complex soundscape and a piano part that requires a range of technique as much of it is written to sound “mechanical” as a nod to the title of the poem. Oddly, despite the title, the text is a rich but highly allusive rendering of the story of Susanna and the Elders and a reminder of how much a really interesting text can enhance a song. I’d like to hear this again.
Aaron Gervais’ and Colleen Murphy’s Oksana G. finally made it to the stage last night after a most convoluted journey. It’s being produced by Tapestry at the Imperial Oil Theatre with Tom Diamond directing. The wait, I think has been worth it. The story, set in 1997, of a naive country girl from the Ukraine who gets caught up in sex trafficking is dramatic and the it convincingly depicts the sleazy underworld of southern and eastern Europe created by the collapse of the USSR, the civil wars in the Balkans and the pervasive official corruption in countries like Ukraine, Greece and Italy. It’s gritty and, at times, not at all easy to watch.