The Killing Flower is an opera by Salvatore Sciarrino. Both Italian and English versions exist and it was the latter that was given, in semistaged form, at Walter Hall as part of the Toronto New Music Festival last night. It’s a very distinctive work and not easy to form a full appreciation of on a single hearing. The plot is straightforward enough. There’s a duke and duchess. She falls in love with a guest. They are betrayed by a servant. He kills the guest and then her. But all this happens in a highly abstracted way (made even more abstract by not being fully staged). As the composer puts it:
My theatre is ‘post cinema’ theatre, beginning with the way the scenes are laid out – they proceed by dry blocks that ‘subtract’ in order to get the point across.
Got that? Nor me but what I saw was a succession of scenes in which two characters exchanged fragments of text repeated multiple times. This was actually quite useful as there were no surtitles and it made it easier to grasp what the (very few) words actually were.
We are moving into busy season for the next two or three weeks. Next week, Tuesday sees a lunchtime recital in the RBA by Phillip Addis with song cycles by Maurice Ravel and Erik Ross. Wednesday sees a concert staging of Salvatore Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower (Luci mie traditrici). It tells the story of Carlos Gesualdo’s murder of his wife and lover. Performers include Shannon Mercer, Geoffrey Sirett, Scott Belluz and Keith Klassen. It’s at Walter Hall at 7.30pm with a pre-show with the composer at 6.30pm. Sciarrino is involved in other events connected with the New Music Festival all week. Thursday is opening night for the COC’s Götterdämmerung at the Four Seasons Centre with an early kick off time of 6pm. Alternatively the TSO are doing the Fauré Requiem with Karina Gauvin and Russell Braun on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
Music Theatre Wales’s touring production of The Killing Flower at Buxton Festival. Photograph: Clive Barda
So finally we have dates and casting for the long awaited Oksana G (music Aaron Gervais, libretto Colleen Murphy) from Tapestry Opera. This one has been years in the making. Back when I saw the second act workshop in 2012 there were all kinds of rumours about who would eventually (co)produce it. Now it looks like Tapestry have come up the resources to do it as a standalone. That’s no mean feat as this is a full blown two acter with orchestra and chorus. It will play May 24th – 30th, 2017, at the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre of the Canadian Opera Company, 227 Front St. E. (just around the corner from the Kitten Kondo) and the title role will be played by Operaramblings’ favourite crazy lady Ambur Braid. As she showed recently as Dalinda in the COC’s Ariodante she’s now much more than a series of impressive high notes. She’s become a singing actress of real substance and Oksana is certainly a role a girl could get her teeth into. The rest of the casting is also impressive with the always impressive Krisztina Szabó as Oksana’s mother, Adam Fisher as Father Alexander, and Keith Klassen as the baddy Konstantin. Jordan de Souza conducts and Tom Diamond directs. This is one not to miss!
Rocking Horse Winner; music by Gareth Williams and libretto by Anna Chatterton, opened last night at the Berkeley Street Theatre. It’s based on the short story by DH Lawrence and is a co-commission of Tapestry Opera and Scottish Opera. There are some changes from the original story. Here Paul is a developmentally challenged adult (on the autism spectrum) rather than a child. The gardener is replaced by his personal care worker who moonlights as a caller at the local racetrack. This has a couple of advantages. It provides something of a rationale for Paul hearing the “voice” of the house and for his apparently inexplicable intuition about race winners and it also means that Paul can be cast as a tenor rather than having to make an awkward choice between a boy soprano or a pants role. As Paul is one of, perhaps the main, character, this simplifies casting considerably. The work is also gently updated. So gently in fact that it’s barely perceptible.
I thought I’d managed a pretty comprehensive update on the Toronto opera/choral/vocal music scene for March but there are a couple of gigs I got rather later info on.
On March 23rd at 7pm in Walter Hall, CASP have a concert of works from the more humorous end of the Canadian Art Song rep. Mary-Lou Fallis, Geoff Sirett, peter Tiefenbach and Steven Philcox are performing. Tickets are $40, $25 (senior) and $10 (student).
Then on Friday 27th Maureen Batt and Cheryl Duvall are performing a program of contemporary American and Canadian works, many of them written for Maureen, at Heliconian Hall. It’s at 8pm and tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and there are $15 early bird tickets available at https://www.bemusednetwork.com/events/detail/69
And in other news Voicebox:Opera in Concert have announced a cast change for their performance of Charpentier’s Louise on the 29th. Keith Klassen replaces Adrian Kramer as the poet Julien.
Last night I saw the second performance of Tapestry’s latest compilation of short works. As before it was a mix of excerpts from works in progress and potential projects plus stand alone short scenes developed during the LibLab. This year there was an additional refinement. The works were staged in different parts of the building (part of the Distillery complex) and samples of the local goodies were provided at strategic points along the way.