Anna Bolena at the COC

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, in a production by Stephen Lawless, opened last night at the COC.  Bel canto fans, canary fanciers and, just maybe, the rest of us should rush and see it.  The singing is extraordinary.  The cast is led by Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role and she gives, pretty much, a masterclass in bel canto technique.  The control is extraordinary with gleaming top notes, exquisitely floated pianissimo, genuine trills and real emotion.  Only a slight raspiness occasionally evident in the recits even hinted that this was a singer who was too sick to perform only a few days ago.  Where to go next among some very fine performances?  Bruce Sledge as Percy I think.  This was thrilling tenor singing with passion, ringing high notes and wonderful musicality.

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The Nightingale sang

The COC’s revival of Robert Lepage’s 2009 production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, revived by Marilyn Gronsdalis a delightful mix of witty and clever stagecraft coupled with some fine music making.  It’s very much a work of two contrasting halves.  The first is a carefully constructed program of shorter Stravinsky vocal and instrumental works; all from the period 1911-1919 and all with a sound world reminiscent of The Firebird or Petrouchka rather than The Rite of Spring or the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto.  The full line up was:

  • Ragtime
  • Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet No.1
  • Pribaoutki
  • Berceuses du chat
  • Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont
  • Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet No.2
  • Four Russian Peasant Songs
  • Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet No.3
  • The Fox

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Last night at the Four Seasons Centre

For the last few years the COC has had a fairly glitzy evening at which the next season is announced and there are interviews, a few performances etc.  This year, for whatever reason, the two elements were divorced.  The season was announced in a press release win January with no fanfare; not even a press conference.  The glitzy bit happened last night with a cocktail reception and a stage event hosted by Brent Bambury.

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What’s on in April

marcyApril is a busy month for fully staged opera.  Canadian Opera opens two productions and there are shows from Opera Atelier, Against the Grain and Essential Opera.  First up is the COC’s revival of Robert Lepage’s production of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables.  This opens on April 13th and runs to May 13th.  In 2009 it sold out so this time there are nine performances.  Also at the COC there’s Donizetti’s Anna Bolena completing the Tudor trilogy.  It opens on April 28th with nine performances closing May 26th.

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Out like a lamb?

yourewelcome365pxNot much sign of spring as we move into the second half of the month but there are some things musical to enjoy while we await the return of the sun.  On March 18th at 2pm in Mazzoleni Hall there is You’re Welcome Rossini with the glamorous duo of Allyson McHardy and, the not seen often enough in Toronto, Lucia Cesaroni.  This one is officially sold out but there may be rushes.  Ten bucks says they do the Cat duet.
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The Ballad of East and West?

Wajdi Mouawad’s production of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, originally seen in Lyon, opened last night at the COC with Valérie Négre as revival director.  The piece has been somewhat restructured and the spoken dialogue changed to explode the idea that the piece is “about” some kind of crude juxtaposition of the “West”; Enlightened, civilized etc, and the “East”; obscurantist, cruel, barbarian etc.  To this end Mouawad has inserted a prologue before the overture where Belmonte’s father is holding a party to celebrate the return of his son and the others where he makes the above comparison in extremely crude terms and then invites his guests to play la tête du Turc, a game that involves hitting a Turk’s head with a sledgehammer.  The guests wade in with drunken abandon, except for Konstanze and Blonde who are clearly revolted by the idea.  This leads to a conversation around who changed and how while they were in captivity and so to telling the whole story in flashback.

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Recruits for the Ensemble Studio

UntitledThe COC has announced four additions to the COC Ensemble Studio for 2018/19.  I don’t think there any surprises.  The three prize winners from last season’s Centre Stage are joined by Lauren Margison, daughter of Richard and currently with the Atelier Lyrique in Montreal.  Just for fun I researched how long the four had been on the OR radar.  The most recent is Montreal based soprano Anna-Sophie Neher who was unknown to me until Centre Stage.  Next would be mezzo Simona Genga; UoT graduate and top prize winner at Centre Stage.  She first appeared in these pages in a review of a UoT concert in 2016.  Bass-baritone Joel Allison has been on the watch list for a while.  He first showed up in a review of a Talisker Players concert in March 2015 and I’ve followed him closely ever since, including his Norcop Prize winner recital.  But by far the longest history goes to soprano Lauren Margison who I first wrote about as a 19 year old singing with her dad in the RBA in 2011!  I wonder whether that record, seven years from first appearing in OR to joining the Ensemble Studio, will ever be broken.  For the record, graduating this summer are Samantha Pickett, Megan Quick, Bruno Roy and Toronto’s favourite naked soprano Danika Lorèn.