Whisper Opera

There’s one last chance to catch David Lang’s The Whisper Opera at The Theatre Centre on Queen West this afternoon at 2pm.  My review will appear in due course in Opera Canada (I hope!).  Meanwhile here’s a picture from the New York run that hopefully conveys a thousand words (about three times as many as my review!)

©ARMEN Elliott1030 - The Whisper Opera NYC 2013


It’s hard to think of a more appropriate work for Toronto this February than A Winter Journey although one could make a good case for A Winter Stay at Home with a Hot Water Bottle and a Bottle of Whisky.  Unfortunately Schubert didn’t set the latter so it was Winterreise we got from German baritone and pianist Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber at Koerner Hall last night.  It was completely classical.  Two men in tails walked out and performed the 24 songs of this most demanding cycle.  There were no histrionics.  There was no interpretive dance.  There were no video projections.  Indeed so unhistrionic was it that I don’t believe Herr Gerhaher’s right hand left the piano the entire time.

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Barbara Hannigan in the RBA

OK so who noticed that Barbara contains RBA twice?  A perfect fit one might say and so it proved.  In a short late afternoon concert Ms. Hannigan, joined by the TSO Chamber Soloists (Jonathan Crow, Peter Seminovs, Teng Li and Joseph Johnson) and Liz Upchurch, showed her chops as one of the day’s best interpreters of modern vocal music.   First up was the String Quartet No.2 by Schoenberg.  This is a most unusual quartet in that the players are joined by a soprano soloist for the third and fourth movements.  It’s also unusual in that, although it predates Schoenberg’s full blown serialism, the first three movements are tonal (just) but the last is a full on experiment in atonality.  None of this makes it easy to play or sing!

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More upcoming events

1097-4243-Barbara-Hannigan-High-Res-7---credit-Elmer-de-HaasThere’s a 15% off offer for Christian Gerhaher’s 26th February recital at Koerner Hall.  Use Code CHRISTIAN15 on line or at the box office.

March 2nd at 2pm Barbara Hannigan is doing a workshop at UoT focussed on Hans Abrahamsen’s new work Let me tell you.  It’s at Walter Hall and it’s free.  The work itself will get its North American premier on March 4th with Barbara and the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall.

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Reflections on the recent COC run

dg9How many Toronto lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two; one to fly to New York and the other to stand by the fax machine waiting for the instructions.

Today the COC’s winter run of Don Giovanni and Die Walküre comes to an end.  It’s worth reflecting on what we’ve seen I think.  Neither production could be called “traditional” and the Don Giovanni in particular produced a broad range of reactions, some of them quite extreme.  I’m not really sure why as, by international standards, it wasn’t particularly extreme.  And that’s the starting point for this “thought for the day”.

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ROH cinema screenings return to Bloor Hotdocs

15830210743_c7a53486abRoyal Opera House cinema screenings are back at the Bloor Cinema and it seems that the full season will be available.  ENO are you watching or is your sense of Ontario gepography akin to your business acumen?

First up, tomorrow, at noon they’re screening Giordano’s Andrea Chenier directed by David McVicar with Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek.

March 22nd sees Tim Albery’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer with Adrienne Pieczonka and Bryn Terfel.  Ms. Pieczonka will be on hand to introduce the piece.

On June 28th we get a new John Fulljames production of Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Anne Sofie von Otter.

July 26th sees John Copley’s venerable production of Puccini’s La Bohème.  This production is almost as old as I am.  Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja play Mimi and Rodolfo.

Finally, on August 30th  we can see a new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell directed by Damiano Michieletto with Antonio Pappano conducting. The cast includes Gerry Finley and Malin Bystrom.

France Bellemare; a soprano to watch

Today saw the annual lunchtime concert in the RBA in which members of the COC Ensemble Studio collaborate with visitors from the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal.  There were three singers from each progrsam but rather unusually only one of them was female; soprano France Bellemare.  Naturally I was rather focussed on the visiting singers as the three Toronto participants; Gordon Bintner, Clarence Frazer and Andrew Haji are very much known quantities.  Of the visitors it was very much Ms. Bellemare who shone.  She has a very accurate, lovely rich voice with perhaps still some work to do on the top of her range but very easy to listen to and she’s musically and dramatically convincing too.  Her version of Micaëla’s Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante was very competent though I’m not sure it’s ideal rep for her.  The Song to the Moon from Rusalka though fitted her like a glove.  This was really lovely singing.  She also did very well in duet with Clarence Frazer in Lippen schweigen from Die Lustige Witwe or The Merry Widow or La Veuve Joyeuse as all three languages were used!  She can waltz too though perhaps not as well as Clarence.  Ladies, if you need a dance partner consider Mr. Frazer.  She also shone in the final number; the Libiamo from La Traviata.  I confess when I saw the program and saw that she would be partnered by Andrew Haji I rather expected her to be sung off the stage.  She wasn’t.  She held her own with a tenor who will sing this role on the COC’s main stage next season.  No mean feat.  This young lady is definitely one to watch.


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