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.
The summer music scene, or its virtual absence, puzzles me. At this time of year I look at my diary and it’s packed until late May and then woomph!; next to nothing until late September or early October. There will be a few odd things like the Toronto Summer Music Festival and, if we are lucky, a couple of things at
Hipsterfest Luminato. But, for the most part, the city will be classical music free. The expensive fixed capital of the Culture Biz will lie idle. It puzzles me. It seems just a reflection of a world that has ceased to be and thus an opportunity.
So why do the Artz abandon the city in the summer?
- Is it because we need the kids to work on the farm?
- Is it because we’ve sent the wife and kids up to the cottage for the summer?
- Do we fear a cholera outbreak?
- Is the prospect of sitting in a hot and stuffy theatre without air conditioning unappealing?
This being North America most people don’t get a lot of vacation so most working stiffs are stuck in the city for most of the summer. And there’s not much on. And please don’t tell me that all I need to do is drive three hours to some mosquito infested swamp where I can watch students on summer break pay to perform. I’m puzzled. Really.
The invitations to the big bash are out. The COC will announce the 2016/17 season on the 13th of January. So it’s time to crack the shoulder blades, eviscerate the chickens and check that spread sheet I’ve been running for the last few years. After all what’s the holiday season without a little humiliation?
The imminent death of the art song recital is perhaps an even more prevalent trope than “opera is dying” doomandgloomery. It reached something of a crescendo in Toronto when the Aldeburgh Connection shut up shop after thirty years. Oddly enough there still seem to be plenty of recitals of various kinds but unquestionably there has been something of a shift away from “two dudes in tails with a piano”.
There are, I think, some really interesting trends emerging in the classical vocal scene in Toronto. On the one hand there’s the consolidation of the Neef/Debus era at the COC that has taken the company from decidedly provincial to being a first rate international opera capable of offering us, its audience, the best singers, directors and conductors in the world. I know that not everyone welcomes that change but it seems to me infinitely preferable to death by musical and dramatic sclerosis. But that’s not what this piece is about. What I wanted to explore was what’s happening at a more grass roots level. This probably need to be taken in two parts; opera and art song, though curiously the cast of characters overlaps in some interesting ways. This piece looks at opera.