Tapestry have announced casting for Naomi’s Road. The cast includes two members of the original cast; Sam Chung as Stephen, Naomi’s musical younger brother and baritone Sung Taek Chung as Daddy. They will be joined by soprano Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga as 9-year-old Naomi and mezzo-soprano Erica Iris Huang as Mother/Obasan. Tickets are now on sale here.
November 14th will see the fourth annual Elizabeth Krehm Memorial Concert. The concert raises money for the St Michael’s Hospital ICU, where Liz spent the last 30 days of her life. This year the program will start with the Bach Double Violin Concerto; a piece played by Liz. It will be performed by Yosuke Kawasaki and Jessica Linnebach, who are the concert master and associate concert master of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. Rachel Krehm will be singing 2 arias and a song by Mozart, Dvorak and Strauss. Finally we will get Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Evan Mitchell will conduct a volunteer orchestra. As well as being in aid of a good cause these memorial concerts have featured exceptionally good performances and are definitely worth going to. It’s at Metropolitan United Church (56 Queen St E) on Monday November 14th at 7:30pm. Admission is by donation to St. Mike’s with a suggested minimum of $20.
The seven finalists for the COC’s Centre Stage have been announced. Centre Stage is a singing competition and gals that serves as a sort of final audition for the following year’s Ensemble Studio, a contest for cash prizes and a beano for the rich. This year it’s being held on November 3rd when, unfortunately, I shall be overseas. So, no report here. The finalists are baritone Samuel Chan (Calgary); soprano Maria Lacey (St. John’s, N.L.); soprano Myriam Leblanc (Saint-Lazare, Que.); soprano Andrea Lett (Prince Albert, Sask.); mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh(Vancouver); soprano Andrea Núñez (Markham, Ont.); and baritone Geoffrey Schellenberg (Vancouver).
Last year’s contestants with the Lieutenant Governor
Jordan de Souza, late of the COC and Tapestry, continues to make news. Having recently joined the Komische Oper Berlin as Studienleiter, he will, from the 2017/18 season, be the Kapellmeister (but not GMD). I think (my knowledge of German musical semantics being imperfect) that this represents a step up from Assistant Conductor to Chief Conductor with a policy role but stops short of implying overall control of musical policy. Apparently the Komische is still looking for a GMD. For those who might be able to wring more out of it than I, here is the article from Musik Heute (auf Deutsch).
ETA: A kind German correspondent provided further information on the semantics of “Kapellmeister” as it generally applies in German houses (i.e. may not be 100% correct for the specific case of the Komische). So, Kapellmeister is basically the second resident conductor of an opera orchestra after the GMD, without (usually) being in any real sense an “assistant”to the GMD though possibly a “deputy”. Generally the Kapellmeister takes on a number of repertoire productions per season and perhaps also new productions and/or concerts.
The Canadian Opera Company issued its Annual Report and Financials for 2015/16 today. As far as ticket sales go it was fairly flat in terms of tickets sold and revenues. Subscription sales were down a bit but single ticket sales were up. That’s probably the Carmen effect. That all equates to around 91% capacity sold which isn’t bad. Tickets to people under 30 are still less than 10% of tickets sold (and probably way, way less than 10% of box office revenue). Clearly there’s no magic bullet for replacing an aging subscriber base. Individual donations and government grants were both down by about 5%. That’s being spun as largely a loss of one time grants and extraordinary gifts but down is still down and the reduction in Ontario Arts Council funding can’t be spun. Still, one way or another it was finagled into a break even year which is not too shabby for any arts organization. Endowment performance was steady.
It’s a good product on the stage. The programming is about as adventurous as one could expect from a large house with minimal government funding. There is no financial crisis or signs of impending doom. I’ll take that.
What are we to make of Handel’s Ariodante? The plot centres on the notion that female chastity is the be all and end all of life. It’s not a notion that would find much support in 21st century Toronto, even among a Sunday afternoon audience at the Four Seasons Centre. Ginevra, princess of Scotland and heir to the king, is betrothed to Ariodante. Ariodante has a rival, Polinesso who is loved in a besotted kind of way by Ginevra’s maid, Dakinda. Polinesso claims to have slept with Ginevra and offers to prove it to Ariodante. He drugs Ginevra and gets Dalinda to put on Ginevra’s clothes and invite him into her room. Ariodante disappears, apparently having committed suicide in a fit of despair. On the flimsiest of evidence Ginevra, who has no ideas what happened, is condemned to death. Her accusers, including her father, don’t even bother to ask who the man in her room was. Polinesso tries to remove the now inconvenient Dalinda from the scene but fails and when Ariodante shows up again she spills the beans. Polinesso is killed by Ariodante’s brother in a duel but not before confessing. All is forgiven and everyone carries on as if nothing in the least traumatising just happened. So, what to do with this?
There’s a lot on today. Handel’s Ariodante opens at the COC at 2.30pm. There’s also a concert featuring Russell Braun with the Amici Ensemble at 3pm in the Mazzoleni Concert Hall at the Conservatory. The Elmer Iseler Singers and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir also have concerts. Thursday sees the opening of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier with Wallis Giunta and Chris Enns as the lovers which promises both eye and ear candy. That’s at the Elgin at 7.30pm. Then on Saturday there’s Singing Stars of Tomorrow, the result of a Sondra Radvanovsky intensive, at the Alliance Française at 7.30 pm. The line up is Valerie Belanger,soprano; Stephanie De Ciantis, soprano; Natalya Gennadi, soprano; Beth Hagerman, soprano; Jessica Scarlato, soprano; Sara Schabas, soprano; Caitlin Wood, soprano; Danielle MacMillan, mezzo-soprano; Marjorie Maltais, mezzo-soprano; Asitha Tennekoon, tenor. Quite a mix, from people I’ve never heard of to one who has already made her COC debut.
In other news, the COC and Show One Productions have announced a gala concert to take place at the Four Seasons Centre on April 25th next year. It’s billed (modestly) as Trio Magnifico: The Ultimate Opera Gala and the big draw is the Canadian debut of Anna Netrebko. She will appear with her husband tenor Yusif Eyazov and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. They will be accompanied by the COC Orchestra conducted by Jader Bignamini. Given that Dima alone turned Koerner Hall into a frenzy of screaming Russian grannies, this could get interesting.
Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma at the COC (co-pro with San Francisco, Chicago and the Liceu) is perhaps best described as serviceable. I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any. That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient. The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus. So, what does it look like? It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest. There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing. Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes. Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end. All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.