Seven Sins at the Symphony

Last night’s Decades series concert featured three works from the 1930s plus a sesqui.  The sesqui, Andrew Balfour’s Kiwetin-acahkos; Fanfare for the Peoples of the North was definitely one of the more interesting of these short pieces.  There were elements of minimalism combined with a nod to Cree/Métis fiddle music.  Quite complex and enjoyable.  It was followed by Barber’s rather bleak Adagio for Strings and the Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.  It’s familiar enough fare and was well played by the orchestra under Peter Oundjian.  I particularly enjoyed some of the weird percussion/celesta effects in the third movement of the Bartók.  But really I was there for the second half of the program.

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Opera Atelier’s Médée

There are umpteen operas based more or less closely on the legends surrounding Medea, Jason, the Golden Fleece and the events afterwards in Corinth.  Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s 1693 version to a libretto by Corneille deals with the events in Corinth subsequent to Jason and Medea’s return with the fleece.  The plot, in essentials, is simplicity itself.  Jason is scheming to secure his future, and that of his children, by ditching Médée and marrying the king’s daughter Créuse.  Médée is not having this and wreaks revenge on just about everybody else in the piece.  Somehow Charpentier and Corneille string this out over five acts and the obligatory prologue glorifying Louis XIV, wisely omitted by director Marshall Pynkowski.

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Like the 504 streetcar

Season announcements, it seems, are like the King Street streetcar(1).  You wait for ages then three come along at once.  This time it’s Opera Atelier announcing the 2017/18 season.  As ever there are two productions.  A remount of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro runs October 26th to November 4th. The cast icludes Douglas Williams, making his Opera Atelier debut, in the title role, with Mireille Asselin (Susanna), Stephen Hegedus (Count Almaviva), Peggy Kriha Dye (Countess Almaviva), Mireille Lebel (Cherubino), Laura Pudwell (Marcellina), Gustav Andreassen (Bartolo), Christopher Enns (Basilio/Don Curzio), Olivier Laquerre (Antonio), and Grace Lee (Barbarina).  This one will be sung in English.

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Patrick Jang, Carla Huhtanen and Phillip Addis in “The Marriage of Figaro” (2010).  Photo by Bruce Zinger.

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The Hungarian-Finnish connection

Stephen HegedusThe last Songmasters concert of the season featured a selection of works that sorta kinda had a Finnish or Hungarian connection.  The first part of the prgram featured songs by Sibelius, all but one to Swedish texts, and piano pieces by Selim Palmgren, whose music sounds like a sort of cross between Debussy and Sibelius.  The songs were sung Stephen Hegedus with plenty of power and quite a bit of subtlety.  We had been told he was quite ill but one wouldn’t have known it.  Fine, delicate work at the piano by Robert Kortgaard.   Continue reading

Barefoot Messiah

Against the Grain Theatre revived their 2013 choreographed Messiah last night Harbourfront Centre.  It’s quite heavily reworked from the 2013 edition and I think the changes are an improvement.  The creative team of Topher Mokrzewski (Music), Joel Ivany (Stage direction) and Jenn Nichols (choreography) remains the same as does the overall “look and feel”.  The soloists are supported here by a 16 strong chorus and 18 instrumentalists.

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The Royal Conservatory 2015/16 season

PD32029780_Terfel__1514579cThe Royal Conservatory has now announced the 2015/16 season.  The full details plus how to subscribe, buy tickets etc is here.  It’s the usual rich mix of music in a wide range of genres.  Here are the things I will be looking out for:

April 24th 2016 in Koerner Hall at 3pm there’s a recital by Bryn Terfel with Natalia Katyukova.  This is definitely the big name vocal gig of the season.

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Eros and Thanatos

Against the Grain’s Death/Desire opened last night at the Neubacher Shor Contemporary Gallery.  It’s structured around Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin cycle with the songs of Messiaen’s Harawi: Chants d’amour et de mort interpolated, though not in the usual order.  Thus there are two characters; The Man, singing the Schubert; who is very much the conventional questing lover of 19th century poetry, and The Woman, singing the Messiaen (mostly) who is something very different from the young girl of Wilhelm Müller’s texts.  The piece is staged with both characters on stage most of the time and interacting in ways that reflect the music and don’t.

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