The last of this season’s Recitals at Rosedale was on the theme of the the Seven Deadly Sins. It was an interesting and enjoyable afternoon, perhaps notable as much for what it had to say about the state of the industry as for the music making. The format was four singers moving fairly rapidly between short (more the most part) songs linked by a one or two sentence chosen text. The effect was to keep things moving along swiftly and even to generate a kind of narrative arc. There was no time for applause between numbers for example. It was a very different feel from the traditional art song recital where one or two singers sing sets of related songs. It was also quite operatic. All the singers chose to act physically and with the voice. Again, a far cry from the art song tradition where a raised eyebrow is considered over acting. Overall I thought it worked and in a city where the music commentariat has been lamenting the death of the art song recital for years somebody has to try something!
The quartet of singers was an interesting mix too. Bass-baritone Robert Gleadow is a young singer who is pretty much established internationally now. He’s sung major roles at COC, in Paris and Berlin and at Glyndebourne among other places. He has the career that so many young singers aspire to. Michael Colvin is perhaps best described as a journeyman tenor. He gets a fair amount of work; much of it in supporting roles or covering with the occasional plum like Peter Quint at ENO. Ambur Braid is perhaps the most inyeresting case. A terrific singing actress with an unusual coloratura voice. She can create the most vivid characters, as those who saw her Adele and Vitellia will attest, and that’s probably her problem. She’s nobody’s safe bet and one can only get by for so long singing Queen of the Night in Saskatoon. This was Ambur’s last gig in Toronto before moving to London to try her luck there. Finally there was soprano Lindsay Barrett who is only just out of school (though I suspect older than the average UoT grad). I’ve only seen her twice before; once at Rosedale and once in The Brothers Grimm. It’s a study in how fine the line is between substantial success and struggling is in this business.
So, onto the concert itself. As there were eighteen separate sections I’ll spare you a blow by blow and just talk about a few highlights. There were a couple of interesting, lesser known pieces for Lindsay. Harry Somers’ A Bunch of Rowan was a complex piece with a challenging piano part and was elegantly sung with some restraint as was Mozart’s Als Luise die Briefe. Robert was in his element with the Ibert Chansons de Don Quichotte and Poulenc’s Chanson à boire. He’s a very expressive singer and actor with quite a powerful voice but also the ability to float apparently effortless high notes. He also had a lot of fun with Rossini’s Adieux à la vie which is an extended joke on the traditional opera death scene.
Michael has a lightish voice with a rather beautiful sound. One can see why he gets to sing Britten a lot. I particularly liked his performance of Barber’s The Heavenly Banquet. Ambur was heard to good effect in Poulenc’s La Dame de Monte Carlo, which is a sort of very high class cabaret like piece to a text of Cocteau and later in Cole Porter’s Make it another old fashioned which was almost terrifyingly intense, ending with a look straight out of a Steve Bell cartoon of Margaret Thatcher. The whole thing wrapped up with a four part arrangement by Peter Tiefenbach of Irving Berlin’s Anything you can do. No prizes for guessing who can sing higher than you! Finally, it was Rachel Andrist who made the whole series possible and who played the piano with her customary skill and versatility.
Recitals at Rosedale returns next season. Details can be found here.
And finally, all the best to Ambur in her new home in London.