Plug in

I went to see Esprit Orchestra’s show Plug in at Koerner Hall last night.  I don’t often go to purely orchestral concerts but Jenn Nichols was dancing and I have this feeling that I ought to listen to more contemporary music.

The first piece; Symphonie minute by José Evangelista, is a highly compressed “symphony” in four movements.  Each movement only lasts a couple of minutes and it uses a large orchestra.  It’s intriguing that in such a short time each movement has a clearly defined character.  It’s quite dissonant but very easy to listen to and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Dress Rehearsal 2

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There are no words

Krystyna Zywulska was a Polish resistance fighter who was captured and sent to Auschwitz.  She took to writing lyrics and setting them to an eclectic mix of tunes as a way of coping with the horror of the camp.  Somehow this was pleasing to the powers that be and she found herself with a relatively soft job processing the possessions of arriving prisoners.  She survived to write a number of memoirs about her experience.  The story is oddly similar to that of Zofia Posmysz, who inspired Weinberg’s The Passenger.  This time the opera is Another Sunrise; a collaboration of Gene Scheer and Jake Heggie commissioned by Music of Remembrance and premiered in 2012.  There’s a companion piece by the same team; Farewell Auschwitz, which sets some of the Zywulska texts, in translation and reworking by Scheer, to a wide range of the kinds of music that Zywulska used.  Last night both pieces got their Canadian premiers in a production by Electric Bond Ensemble at Beth Tzedec directed by Aaron Willis.

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Tap:Ex Forbidden

Tapestry’s new experimental show opened last night at the Ernest Balmer Studio.  It’s a “mash up” of Persian classical music and hip hop around the theme of The Child and The Stranger, who turns out to be Lucifer.  Lucifer seeks to show the child that authority and rules serve only to allow the powerful to abuse and punish others.  This is explicated in six short scenes using the various musical resources and styles available.

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I due Figaro

Mercadante’s I due Figaro(1) is one of a number of operas that continue the story of Figaro, Almaviva etc into a third instalment.  It sets a libretto by Felice Romani based on Les deux Figaro by Honoré-Antoine Richaud Martelly.  It premiered in Madrid in 1835 but was lost for many years before being rediscovered in 2009 and given at the 2011 Ravenna Festival.  Yesterday in got its Canadian premier at VOICEBOX:Opera in Concert.

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GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall

It’s that mid point of the academic year when the GGS puts on a recital programme that features a fairly full selection of the available singing talent at the Conservatory.  This means one sees everything from first year undergrads to singers in the final stages of a master’s degree, who may already be singing professionally, so it’s a constant exercise in recalibration.  It wasn’t helped last night by the fact that I had serious TTC problems causing me to miss the first three numbers on the programme plus feeling a bit frazzled for the rest.  So, in no particular order, I’m going to write about what I particularly enjoyed.  Omission should not be over-interpreted.

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All the Strauss

Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert in Mazzoleni Hall was an all Richard Strauss program featuring an array of guests.  First up was the Duett Concertino where regulats Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet), David Hetherington (cello) and Serouj Kradjian (piano) were joined by violinists Timothy Ying and Jennifer Murphy, violist Keith Hamm, Theodore Chan on bass and Michael Sweeney on bassoon.  It’s a program piece in which the clarinet represents a princess and the bassoon, a bear, who eventually, of course, transforms into a handsome prince.  There are lots of dance rhythms from the strings and some sly quotations from Der Rosenkavalier along the way.  It’s fun and it was very well played.  I almost wonder if it was too smooth.  The bear certainly seemed very suave and his transformation was not terribly abrupt.  Still, bear!

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Russell Braun and Carolyn Maule at Mazzoleni Hall

8b440c574ff48428011373a5639b_GalleryYesterday’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured Russell Braun and Caolyn Maule in a generous and varied program anchored on Schumann’s Dichterliebe; a setting of sixteen poems by Heine.  It was framed by three Mendelssohn songs and a varied and intriguing second half program.

Russell is a singer at the height of his powers.  He has a lovely instrument and perfect control of pitch, dynamics and tone colour.  He’s also a sensitive and musical human being.  Throw all that at text and music as rich as Dichterliebe and the result is inevitably quite wonderful.  One could just luxuriate in an emotional journey through the highs and lows of romantic love and a physical one up and down that magical river, the Rhine. The Mendelssohn was rather lovely too.

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