Danika Lorèn and co. aka Collectìf were back today with a lunctime show in the RBA. Like their previous shows this was a themed, more or less staged, series of art songs. This program was inspired by Verlaine’s Fêtes galantes and featured all French texts set by a range of composers. Most of it was pretty typical chansons of the fin de siècle; material I find pleasant enough but not especially compelling. The surprise, and a very welcome one, was four pieces by Reynaldo Hahn setting texts by Charles, duc d’Orléans and Faullin de Banville. Here Hahn turned his flair for vocal and pianistic colour to great effect producing pieces strangely evocative of the Renaissance. Fancifully perhaps, I could imagine these being sung at the court of Philip the Good (assuming of course that he had a piano…)
March was a curiously quiet month. April starts to look busier, at least once we get past Easter. Tonight, Against the Grain have their monthly pub night at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club. Snow is forecast so you should all stay away and then maybe I’ll be able to get in. On Saturday at 4pm there’s a free (or PWYC) recital in Ernest Baumer Studio featuring soprano Stephanie Nakagawa and pianist Peemanat Kittimontreechai. They will be performing arias from contemporary Canadian operas. On Thursday 13th Philippe Jaroussky and Les Violins du Roy will be appearing at Koerner Hall. It’s at 8pm and features mainly fairly obscure Handel material.
On the face of it the idea of reorganising Schubert’s Winterreise for three female voices and staging it as a kind of allegory isn’t an obvious one but Collectìf’s As a Stranger worked remarkably well. The arrangement and distribution of the numbers was judicious; most of the songs went to a single singer, some were split and occasional and effective use was made of two or three voices in unison. The idea behind the split being to make mezzo Whitney O’Hearne the narrator/traveller while sopranos Jennifer Krabbe and Danika Lorèn embodied the malign and benign aspects/characters of the story. Heliconian Hall doesn’t offer a lot in the way of staging possibilities but well thought out costumes, a few props and a considerable, and quite sophisticated, video element added up to a pretty satisfying experience. In the last number Jennifer relieved Tom King at the piano to allow the Leierman to stagger off into the wintry night. All well thought out and well executed.
With Easter almost upon us it’s not surprising that the upcoming week is a bit light. Tonight Danika Lorèn and friends at Collectìf have a show at Heliconian Hall at 7.30pm. It’s called As a Stranger and is their take on Schubert’s Winterreise. I’ve been quite taken by this young group’s efforts to date. Tickets are available here. Then tomorrow night Andrew Haji, Megan Quick and a chamber orchestra drawn from the university faculty have a concert in Walter Hall at 7.30pm. Featured works include Schoenberg’s Die Waldtaube from Gurrelieder and Mahler’s (arr. Schoenberg) Das Lied von der Erde. Tickets from the MacMillan box office.
There was something about Collectìf’s cabaret show, Do Over, last night that reminded me of a folk club in the 70s or 80s (as in when I was their age!). It was in a pub. The room was full of young(ish) people. It was loud. It was irreverent. And people were having fun. Shocking! An opera related event that was irreverent and fun. No solemn “palaces of culture” here. No AMOP style “in my day” grumbling. Just three rather good singers, a pianist and a thoroughly eclectic, not to say at times filthy (there were more double entendres than an eight hour episode of The Two Ronnies), selection of music drawn from four and a half centuries. The AMOP crowd should probably prohibit their daughters and servants from seeing this show.
Le Rossignol et la Rose is Collectif’s first show. It’s another take on how to make art song more interesting and attract a new audience. The formula this time is to stage a series of songs with an implied linking narrative in a funky space. It worked pretty well. The B Lounge is a basement lounge/club next door to a boxing gym. It’s scruffy but comfortable with enough space for performance in and around the audience. There’s a bar.
So this week is the big Messiah week. I’ll be seeing two; the TSO’s “big, fat” Messiah on Tuesday and Against the Grain’s choreographed version the following night. The TSO version uses Andrew Davis’ “large scale” orchestration and has a great quartet of soloists. It’s playing at Roy Thomson Hall Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through Sunday. The AtG version also has great soloists, it’s on a smaller scale and features Jenn Nicholls’ choreography. It plays at Harbourfront Wednesday through Saturday. There’s also Tafelmusik’s baroque take at Trinity St. Paul’s, also Wednesday through Saturday.