From dark to light

dover-beach-1upphl0Today’s recital in the RBA was given by Russell Braun. Carolyn Maule and members of the COC orchestra.  The programme, Journeys of the Soul, divided into two quite distinct halves.  In the first, Russell was joined by Marie Bedard and Dominique Laplants (violins), Keith Hamm (viola) and Paul Widner (cello) in a performance of Samuel Barber’s Dover Beach; a setting of a text by Matthew Arnold.  It’s a very dark text and rather an extraordinary choice for a twenty year old.  The music is equally dark and brooding.  It’s a great work for Russell though and plays well to the colours of his voice and his keen attention to text.  It was a pleasure to hear in the very intimate atmosphere of the RBA.

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Ruth

ruthLast night Tapestry and the Wilfred Laurier University Faculty of Music co-presented a workshop of Ruth, a new piece by Jeffrey Ryan to a libretto by Michael Lewis MacLennan.  It’s not exactly an opera, perhaps more like one of Britten’s Church Parables.  It is quite short; one act of nine scenes, six of which were given in full last night with a read through of the three not yet set.  The whole piece lasted maybe an hour.  The emphasis is very much on the voices; three soloists and the choir.  Last night it was given with piano accompaniment but the composer suggested that it would work for either organ and/or a small ensemble.

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Hell is oneself

No Exit 2Last night I attended Soup Can Theatre’s double bill of Barber’s A Hand of Bridge followed by Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit; an English translation by Stuart Gilbert, of his 1944 play Huis Clos.  The latter is a piece I’ve seen before and read in both English and French and I would never have imagined it could be presented as it was last night.  It’s a play about three people who find themselves in a room in Hell together.  They will be there for eternity, an eternal triangle I suppose, for they have been especially selected to get on each others’ nerves by continually reminding each character of that aspect of their former lives that they find least admirable.  I have always seen it as an incredibly bleak play as befits one that premiered in Paris in the last months of the German occupation.  I would never have imagined it as a comedy; albeit a dark one, but that’s what director Sarah Thorpe gave us.  Continue reading

Ponderings on the Subject of Love

Julie Makerov and Anne Larlee in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

For the Valentine’s Day lunchtime concert at the Four Seasons Centre American dramatic soprano Julie Makerov chose a series of art songs by English and American composers on various aspects of love.  I was familiar with the English works by Quilter and Britten, though more used to hear them sung by male singers, and not at all familiar with the American works by Berger, Barber and Heggie.  It made for an interesting mix.

A dramatic soprano wouldn’t normally be my first choice for a song recital but Ms. Makerov is very skilled.  She scaled her voice back nicely and had her vibrato well under control.  She also had excellent diction and a good feel for the text.  She didn’t have the most interesting range of tone colour I’ve ever heard but it was a most musical and enjoyable performance.  She performed the whole set from memory which is nice.  The highlights for me included a couple of Quilter settings; Weep You No More Sad Fountains and The Faithless Shepherdess, and a really moving account of Britten’s setting of O, Waly, Waly.  I also really liked the three songs by Berger; In Time of Silver Rain, Heart and Carolina Cabin.  In case we thought the whole thing too serious she encored with an appropriately over the top rendering of Heggie’s Alas, Alack.

Anne Larlee, on piano, once again showed what a fine accompanist she is and there was a very good cameo for cellist Paul Widner in Heggie’s What My Lips Have Kissed.

It was well worth braving the driving sleet of a truly dreich Toronto day.