To the Four Season’s Centre last night to check out one of the COC’s adult education events. This time it was about the baritone voice in all its aspects and featured Liz Upchurch at the piano and, mostly, doing the talking with Ensemble Studio members Sam Chan and Bruno Roy plus ES graduate Neil Craighead back in Toronto to sing Ceprano (not soprano) in Rigoletto doing some singing.
Besides the singing, of which more later, I think there were two takeaways from the evening though it was not actually divided up that way. One, fascinating, dealt with the development of the voice and the sheer number of years it takes for bigger voices to more or less grow up. Also, how do you develop and stretch the voice while staying vocally healthy. Neil is 34 and his voice is really just beginning to get where one can see it going, which is likely big to very big. Sam and Bruno, much younger, are still going through the process of figuring out what Fach (see below) they really are. This seems to happen to everyone except maybe genuine basses, high sopranos and the really obvious tenors. It was pretty cool for instance to heat Bruno sing a tenor aria though not, of course, something like Pour mon âme.
It’s that time of year when one reflects on the good and the not so good. What one would like to see more of and not. What seemed significant about the year. As I look back over my writings for the last twelve months one clear theme stands out, Reconciliation. There was the COC’s very thoughtful and thought provoking remount of Somers’ Louis Riel in April and all the fascinating events that went on around that. There were attempts by the TSO to incorporate Indigenous themes; the Tanya Tagaq concert in March and Adizokan with Red Sky in October. Neither of these quite came off but the intent was good. Then there was a really fine recital of works by Indigenous composers by Marion Newman at the beginning of the year. Then, of course, the Clemence/Current piece Missing, about murdered and missing Indigenous women, which premiered in British Columbia and which I haven’t seen yet but really, really want to. 2017 was also the year when Land Acknowledgements went mainstream in the Toronto arts world. I guess there’s some tokenism here but there does seem to be far more engagement with Reconciliation in the arts world than in, say, the political mainstream which is unfortunate because opera isn’t going to produce clean drinking water. We have to start somewhere I guess.
Yesterday’s RBA concert was titled Celebrating the Invictus Games. Now the Invictus Games is a sporting competition for athletes disabled on military service. It has royal patronage and has clearly become part of the official pageantry of celebrating all things military, as witnessed by the presence of the Lieutenant Governors of Ontario and Alberta at yesterday’s concert. For me it raises all kinds of questions about why we put the military on a pedestal and how we do it and that is very tied up with the choice of rep at a concert like yesterdays. I’ll come back to that at the end of this piece, after reviewing what we actually heard.
I went back to see the COC’s Louis Riel again on Friday evening. Unlike opening night I wasn’t all keyed up to see whether Peter Hinton’s production “worked”. I knew it did. I think, too, perhaps the cast were less nervy and had settled into the show. In any event it allowed me to see the show in some different ways though I suspect that to fully unpack it would take a couple more viewings. It’s more than a crying shame that there will be no video recording, unlike 1969. In fact it’s a damning indictment of successive Canadian governments and the CBC.
What follows isn’t intended as an exhaustive analysis or review. Rather it’s a few thoughts that have been percolating.
The usual haruspication ahead of the COC 2017/18 season announcement has been taking place at the Kitten Kondo. Frankly the giblets are downright confusing this year. There are some hot rumours and a lot of much less hot stuff leading to much speculation based on the shape of the season and past patterns. Here’s some of the more probable stuff. It’s well known that the COC picked up the Carsen Eugene Onegin when the Met was about to bin it so presumably they intend to actually mount it some time. It’s got to the point where names have been associated with it in multiple places. Braun, Radvanovsky and El-Khoury have all been mentioned. Now, having been at the Dima concert at Koerner where the Russian chapter of Hell’s Grannies just about tore the place apart I reckon it should sell like hot blinis so a longish double cast run seems highly plausible.
I live with a musician. In an apartment. My partner practices, as musicians do. I work at home a lot; both for my day job and my music related writing. Neither of these are particularly easy to focus on when someone is tuning, playing scales, etc and listening to (other) music is close to impossible. I’m sure quite a few people reading this face a similar situation. My situation is further complicated by needing to review Blu-ray/DVD from far enough away from a large screen; which would involve either a ridiculously long (and cat vulnerable cable) or wireless. Was there a listening solution that would provide sound isolation and decent quality sound? Ideally, I also wanted something that could double up on a plane as I had found getting anything done on my recent Australia trip close to impossible.
I had a curious operatic experience recently. I was listening to a CD recording of a new American opera; Cold Mountain to be precise, and it’s sung in rather distinct southern American tones. In fact, so much so that a different accent is given to the black character (I only recall one). I’m really not sure how I feel about this. Generally, I think, there’s a “standard” operatic version of each of the major opera languages and it’s usually only departed from for comic effect. Ochs’ rustic accent in Der Rosenkavalier being a case in point. I think I’d be surprised, maybe even shocked, to hear Peter Grimes sung in a Suffolk burr or Die Meistersinger in deepest Bavarian. Even Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick is sung in standard operatic English with a nary a New England “a” in earshot, at least in the SFO production. So why would anyone choose to break this convention for Cold Mountain? I’m really quite curious to canvass opinion on this. Do please share your thoughts in comments.