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…)
I don’t usually give colloborative pianists headline billing but last night’s packed Koerner Hall recital certainly had an element of “They came for Ms. von Otter but stayed for Ms. Hewitt”. Hewitt was phenomenal in a program that interspersed solo piano pieces with sets of songs. In the songs she was simultaneously an individual voice and supportive of her colleague while the solo piano pieces were breathtaking; elegant Scubert and Brahms before the interval, staggeringly virtuosic Chabrier after. She’s also fascinating to watch. Continue reading
Reynaldo Hahn’s 1923 piece Ciboulette is considered one of the last great French operettas. It’s certainly tuneful and highly sophisticated. I lost track of the number of times the word “raffiné” is used during the interviews with production team and cast. It’s certainly a highly involved piece of meta theatre running the gamut of operatic conventions and adding a few touches of its own. It’s jus as well really as all of this is wrapped around a conventionally paper thin plot.
Today’s free concert in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was given by the University of Toronto’s Opera Program. It was a semi staged assortment of songs and excerpts from operas, operettas and musicals based on the works of Shakespeare with a distinct leaning to the operetta/musical theatre side of things. That’s understandable enough with young singers but it does make the game we all play (at least I do) of trying to guess who the next Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko is that much harder. Not that I’m very good at it. I’m far more able to predict what a newly bottled Bordeaux will taste like in ten years time than whether the young soprano I’m listening to might go on to sing Siegfried or Turandot at the Met!
Opera 5’s latest show presents two rarely seen French one act operas. First up was Reynaldo Hahn’s 1897 work L’île du rêve. It’s one of those French officer falls in love with beautiful sixteen year old girl on tropical island and then “duty” calls and he dumps her and she dies of a broken heart pieces. The only twist is that here he offers to take her back to France but the ruling princess advises her that, away from the island, she will lose her charms and he’ll come to despise her so she doesn’t. A touch of French worldliness colouring this rather overdone plot device perhaps? The staging, by Aria Umezawa, is fairly simple though clearly a lot of thought went into how to make the intimate scenes between the principals work. There are also some rather beautiful projections involved.
Robert Carsen’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is as visually striking as any of his productions. It’s also one that’s done the rounds, playing in Aix and Lyon before being recorded by a strong cast at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2005. The challenge with Dream is to create visual worlds for the Fairies and the Mortals that are different but work together. Carsen and his usual design team do this very well in this case. The Fairies are given striking green and blue costumes with red gloves. The mortals mostly run to white and cream and gold and they seem to spend a lot of time in their underwear. The lighting, as always with Carsen, forms an important part of the overall design. Carsen completists will also notice certain other characteristic touches like starkly arranged furniture.