Art song semis – part 1

So the first four semifinalists have sung.  It’s interesting.  Julien van Mellaerts sang a very restrained, very Liederish set while all three girls were more dramatic.  A lot is going to turn on the judges views on the “right way” to do art song.  If the prelims are anything to go by I suspect they tend more to the operatic than I do.  We shall see.

Julien van Mellaerts kicked off with Schubert.  Der Einsame was a model of Germanic restraint but he clearly had plenty of power in reserve and let it out a bit in the more dramatic Rastlose Liebe.  Mahler’s Zu Strassburg auf der Schantz was lovely and lyrical and showed real ability to shape a line.  Gurney’s In Flanders showed off clean high notes plus a sense of style.  His version of Butterworth’s Is my team ploughing? almost teetered into the mannered.  It was lovely but a little precious à la Bostridge.  Songs by Fauré and Duparc were sung stylishly to round out a set that was very much to my taste but will it please the judges?

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The conclusion of the aria prelims

Last night the final eight aria contestants performed.  Canadian mezzo Marie-Andrée Mathieu was up first.  Meyerbeer’s Nobles seigneurs, salut! showed genuine mezzo colours, good control and some dramatic flair.  Parto! Parto! was pleasant but not as dramatic as one might expect.  Certainly the range of emotion on display was markedly less than Emily D’Angelo the day before.  Amour, viens rendre mon âme from Gluck’s Orphée showed she could handle long runs.  So it was a solid performance but maybe not at the level needed against this field.

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The All Gretchen Show

Yesterday afternoon and evening we heard all sixteen contestants in the preliminary round of the art song competition and the eight semifinalists were announced.  To try and keep things interesting I’m going to do three posts; one on the afternoon, one on the evening and one on the judging and other general observations.  The first was written between the afternoon and evening sessions yesterday and I haven’t updated it with later information.  The second will be based on my notes and I’ll try to ignore who the fact that at time of writing I know the results.  So here’s the first post about yesterday afternoon…

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News

soileSo after a bit of a hiatus the Toronto music scene is coming back to life.  The Toronto Summer Music Festival has kicked off and the main interest for followers of the vocal arts lies in the Art Song fellows project with concerts at 1pm on each of the next two Saturdays in Walter Hall (free but tickets required).  Then the vocal highlight of the festival; Soile Isokoski in recital with Martin Katz at 7.30pm on the 18th at Walter Hall.  The programme includes the Schumann Mary Stuart songs, the Strauss Ophelia songs plus some Wolf and, of course, Sibelius.  Ms. Isokoski is also giving a public masterclass in Walter Hall on the 23rd at 2pm.

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Cozy enough

The Toronto production of Against the Grain’s A Little Too Cozy opened last night at Studio 42 at the CBC Centre.  It’s the third and final instalment in the series of Ivany/Mokzrewski adaptations of the Mozart/da Ponte operas, following on from Figaro’s Wedding and #UncleJohn.  Like the earlier pieces it’s updated, site specific and makes a lot of references to social media.  The schtick here is that it’s a reality TV dating show.  Dora and Felicity are yet to meet Elmo and Fernando in the flesh though they have become engaged via social media and through the prior episodes of the show.  Tonight is the season finale and there is one big test left.  Can they be tempted by two strange men?  Show host Donald L. Fonzo and girl handler Despina will make sure they are maximally tempted.  The rest you can work out.

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A Little Too Cozy

So the cat’s out of the bag.  The long awaited where, when and who of Against the Grain’s Toronto run of A Little Too Cozy have been revealed.  A Little Too Cozy is the third and final instalment in a trilogy of Mozart “transladaptations” developed by AtG, which place the works in appropriate, non traditional opera, venues and which use English language librettos by Joel Ivany bringing the stories into a contemporary context.  The first two instalments; Figaro’s Wedding and #UncleJohn, sold out their Toronto runs.

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