Valentine’s Haji

Today’s noon recitalists in the RBA were Andrew Haji and Liz Upchurch.  We had been promised Britten’s Serenade but an absence of non-knackered horn players due to the COC’s Götterdämmerung run scuppered that and instead we got a very varied program of songs and arias on the theme of love and its travails.  Four Brahms songs kicked things off and produced some very fine lieder singing.  Beautiful throughout with fine phrasing, characterisation and diction there was more.  The final “wonnewoll” of Wie bist du, meine Königin was a thing of floaty beauty and there was a real sense of ecstasy in Mein Liebe ist grün.

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Coming up this week

elena_tsallagova_pc_allan_richard_tobis_a_72dpiLate notice I guess but Adrianne Pieczonka and Rachel Andrist are performing Schubert’s Winterreise at Mazzoleni Hall this afternoon.  It’s sold out anyway.  Later, at 7.30pm, UoT Early Music is presenting a concert version of Purcell’s Fairy Queen in Trinity College Chapel.  Tomorrow at the relatively unusual time of 5.30pm the members of the Ensemble Studio will be competing for the Quilico awards.  That’s in the RBA and free.  Also in the RBA, at noon on Tuesday, you can catch Andrew Haji singing a very varied Valentine’s Day program.  Then on Thursday, same time, same place, Elena Tsallagova, Pamina in the COC’s current Magic Flute, presents a Russian and French program.  The Magic Flute and Götterdämmerung continue at the COC.

Magic Flute – the other cast

Last night I saw the alternate cast of the COC’s Magic Flute.  Owen McCausland swaps First Armed Man for Tamino with Andrew Haji, Kirsten MacKinnon comes in as Pamina, Phillip Addis is Papageno and Matt Boehler is Sarastro.  The changes don’t really affect things much at all.  All the new faces are very good.  MacKinnon is a very perky Pamina which works well with Addis who has maybe a bit more of the “cheeky chappy” than Hopkins.  Fans of Owen McCausland and Andrew Haji will see exactly the differences in timbre and vocal technique one would expect but the interpretation is pretty much the same.  Overall, I would say that someone not very familiar with these singers would scarcely notice any differences.  What I did notice is how much better this production looks from Ring 3 than from the Orchestra.  Getting something of a “plan view” makes the antics during the overture look less cluttered and frantic and the trials scene is much more effective.  And the sound is better too.

Photos by Michael Cooper under the fold. Continue reading

Magic Flute revived at COC

Last night saw the first performance of this season’s run of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the COC.  It’s a revival of the Diane Paulus 2011 production with Ashlie Corcoran as revival director.  It has a “theatre within a theatre” overlay in Act 1; it’s supposed to be an aristocratic birthday party for Pamina where the guests perform the opera, which mysteriously disappears in Act 2 though it makes an odd reprise right at the end where all the characters appear to perform a country dance.  Strip that element out and it’s a workmanlike Flute with nothing much to say but some pretty visuals.  The animals are cute and the trials scene is rather well done.  There is one notable change from 2011.  Pamina’s lurid pink Disney princess outfit is gone, replaced by something Regencyish and far less jarring.

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Conservatory 16/17

Adrianne-Pieczonka-4-credit-Johannes-IfkovitsThe Royal Conservatory announced the concert line up for the 2016/17 season last night.  As usual it’s a very eclectic mix with over 100 concerts in a rather staggering variety of genres.  The one loose them is the Canada Sesquicentennial with 70% or so of the line up having some CanCon.  Here are the highlights for the classical vocal music fan.

Koerner Hall will feature recitals by Deb Voigt (November 11th) and Natalie Dessay (May 2nd) plus Phillippe Jaroussky with Les Violins du Roy (April 13th).

The GGS fall opera is Viardot’s Cendrillon with Peter Tiefenbach as music director in Mazzoleni Hall (November 18th and 19th).  The big spring production, at Koerner, will be Piccini’s La Cecchina with Les Dala conducting (March 15th and 17th).  No word on directors yet.  There’s also the GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall on February 4th.

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The four (bearded) tenors

Ensemble Studio tenors, like saints’ noses, only seem to come in multipacks these days.  There are four of them until the end of the season and today they were all on show in the RBA.  It was clearly a popular move as the good folks were lined up outside almost to Richmond Street before the doors opened and they didn’t all get in.  Maybe it was the beards.  Are bearded tenors the new black?  The program was fairly predictable.   Andrew Haji , Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and Aaron Sheppard each gave us a well known and popular aria, with two from Charles Sy, before we got to the inevitable arrangements for four voices of three Neapolitan songs and, of course, the encores.

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Schoenberg meets Mahler

Megan-Quick-Headshot-240x300At Walter Hall last night to see the Faculty Artists Ensemble with Megan Quick and Andrew Haji conducted by Uri Mayer perform the chamber versions of Das Lied der Waldtaube from Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in the Schoenberg arrangement.  The main reason for going was to get as chance to hear Megan in something more substantial than the things I’ve seen her in with UoT Opera.  Plus, a chance to hear Andrew is always very welcome.

The orchestration for both these pieces may be chamber scale but it’s heavy on the winds and it takes a fair bit of power to deal with that in a space like Walter Hall.  It was clear in Das Lied der Waldtaube that Megan has that.  Her instrument is a rich, darkish mezzo with significant beauty of tone and she has great control.  If I were to be picky, I’d say she has a tendency to focus on producing beautiful sounds at the expense of the text to some extent but I’d say that about a lot of successful singers.  It’s a matter of taste and maybe something she will feel differently about after a spell with the Ensemble Studio.  The basics are there for sure and the piece left me wanting to listen to Gurrelieder in full again.  It’s been a long time.   Continue reading