Going for Baroque

Well not strictly baroque.  I wanted a category for pre-Mozart rep since so many houses (and audiences) ignore it and there are some very odd ideas about performing it.  So we are going to cover ground from the earliest days of opera to the late 18th century here, including staged versions of oratorios, because I rather like them.  Here, in rough order of composition, then are my picks; from Monteverdi to Rameau. Continue reading

From the Archives

The opera video recording is in some ways a rather recent phenomenon.  Before the DVD there really wasn’t  a very satisfactory way of distributing a product with a decent sound though there were TV broadcasts and some have been preserved in the catalogue.  Most of the extant recordings are “made for TV” and tend to show the limitations of the technology of the time.  Interestingly, most pre 1980 recordings are of films made in the studio and lip synched to a pre-recorded track.  Therer are only a handful of recordings of live performances in the opera hopuse plus some pioneering BBC recordings of Britten works where the singers are “live”.

Here then, in reverse chronological order, are the pre 1980 recordings I find most interesting. Continue reading

Subjective picks on DVD and Blu-ray

I’ve reviewed over 350 Blu-ray and DVD recordings on this blog but I’ve never attempted any sort of “best of” posting.  So I thought I’d have a crack.  There’s a problem, of course, in comparing recordings made over the course more than 80 years.  There is just no way that “made for TV” recordings pre 2000 can stand up against modern HD productions when it comes to sound and, especially, picture quality so I’ve tried to invent some categories to allow mention of some of the best of them.  It’s going to take a while to sort through all the categories so let’s start with a highly personal set of choices for best overall recording.  Some of them even surprised me.

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Ariadne goes to war

Katherina Thoma not unreasonably chooses to set her 2013 Glyndebourne production of Ariadne auf Naxos in a country house in the south of England (though I suppose equating the Christies with a rather boorish Viennese bourgeois might be thought a touch unkind).  She also chooses to set it in 1940 which sets us up for an almost Marxian dialectic not just between high art and low art but between art and life; especially where life and death are concerned.

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A glorious romp

The COC’s new production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville opened last night at the Four Season’s Centre.  The production is by the Catalan collective Els Comediants, the same team who did La Cenerentola a few seasons back, with direction by Joan Font and designs by Joan Guillén.  It’s a riot in a good way.  It’s bold, colourful and very well choreographed.  There are giant props; for example a huge guitar from which Almaviva sings his serenade and a giant pink piano which serves for all kinds of shenanigans.  A lot of the “sung action” is doubled by actors in a sort of on stage projection cube.  Scene changes are “on the fly” and the curtain only comes down for the interval and the end.  Bold, clever, slick.

Alek Shrader as Count Almaviva Photo: Michael Cooper

Alek Shrader as Count Almaviva. Photo: Michael Cooper

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Toronto Summer Music and more

For those of you who won’t be glued to the underwater cycling at the Pan-Am games there is actually music on in Toronto over the summer.  The tenth Toronto Summer Music Festival features a wide range of events in many genres.  The ones likely to be of most interest to AR readers follow.

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Song for Athene

johntavenerLast night’s Soundstreams concert at Trinity St. Paul’s was devoted to works by John Tavener and people who were close to him.  The principal performers were soprano Patricia Rozario, Choir 21 and the Toronto Children’s Chorus joined, as needed by Christopher Dawes on piano and organ and Erica Goodman on harp.  Conducting duties were split between Elise Bradley and David Fallis.  There was plenty of explanatory material from artistic director Lawrence Cherney plus some from Ms. Rozario as well as taped comments from Tavener to set up the pieces.

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