Handel’s Alexander’s Feast is an oratorio to a text by Newburgh Hamilton based closely on an earlier Dryden St. Cecilia’s Day ode. The basic plot is that Alexander is feasting in captured Persepolis with his mistress Thaïs. Inflamed by the music of Timotheus he decides to burn down the city in revenge for his fallen soldiers. Cecilia descends from Heaven and substitutes music for the king’s barbarous intentions. There are solo and choral numbers and a couple of duets and there are two concerti; one for triple harp representing Timotheus’ lyre playing and an organ concerto for St. Cecilia. It’s all quite tuneful and interesting if not as inspired as some of the better known oratorios.
So this Thursday (Feb 22nd) at 8pm Tafelmusik are presenting Handel’s Alexander’s Feast at Koerner Hall. Chances to see Handel oratorios, other than Messiah, don’t come around that often and this one has a very decent line up of soloists; Amanda Forsythe, Alexander Dobson and Thomas Hobbs. And we have a special giveaway offer. Tafelmusik have provided a pair of tickets for readers of this blog. Comment below or email me (j DOT gilks AT rogers DOT com) with contact details and I’ll put your name in the hat. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow evening. The winner will be able to pick the tickets up at the box office before the show. If you can’t make Thursday there are also performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday but no freebies for those!
I went to see Esprit Orchestra’s show Plug in at Koerner Hall last night. I don’t often go to purely orchestral concerts but Jenn Nichols was dancing and I have this feeling that I ought to listen to more contemporary music.
The first piece; Symphonie minute by José Evangelista, is a highly compressed “symphony” in four movements. Each movement only lasts a couple of minutes and it uses a large orchestra. It’s intriguing that in such a short time each movement has a clearly defined character. It’s quite dissonant but very easy to listen to and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
I guess it’s starting to quieten down a bit. Next week there are a couple of things of interest. On Monday the Faculty Artists at UoT have a concert in Walter Hall with Uri Mayer conducting. It’s an all Mahler program with the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and the Fourth Symphony. The vocal soloists are Monica Whicher and Darryl Edwards. Later in the week the UoT Opera has its main fall production. This time it’s Don Giovanni conducted by Uri Mayer and directed by Marilyn Gronsdale. That’s in the MacMillan Theatre at 7.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a matinée on Sunday. There will, as usual be two casts; one on Thurs/Sat and the other Fri/Sun. On Friday there’s another Whose Opera is is Anyway? from LooseTEA Theatre; Toronto’s opera improv. That’s at 7.30pm at the Comedy Bar. They are moving from there (good!) to Bad Dog Theatre for their December show on the 20th which should also be hosting a monthly show in 2018.
Barbara Hannigan made her much anticipated Koerner Hall debut last night in an all German program accompanied by Reinbert de Leeuw. The first half of the program consisted of three sets; Schoenberg’s Vier Lieder Op. 2, Webern’s Fünf Lieder nach Gedicten von Richard Dehmel and Berg’s Sieben Frühe Lieder. All of these cycles were composed between 1899 and 1907 and there are many similarities. They are highly lyrical and essentially tonal and they mostly set poetry of a fairly pastoral nature. It would be churlish to complain about a performance of the utmost artistry (by both performers) of important works that likely no-one else would program in a major Toronto recital. That said, it was all quite lovely but it was a bit samey. Occasionally, especially in the Webern, some slightly different moods would emerge e.g in the third stanza of Ascension where it gets a bit more dramatic or in Heile Nacht, where there are echoes of Perrot Lunaire, but generally it was all rather in one place musically and emotionally.
The Royal Conservatory of Music announced their 2017/18 concert season last night. There are over 100 concerts spread across just about every genre. I think the following are likely of most interest to Operaramblings readers.
- November 10th 8pm Koerner Hall – Barbara Hannigan with Reinbert de Leeuw in all Second Vienna School concert. The pick of the season for me.
- February 14th 8pm Koerner Hall – Ian Bostridge with Julian Drake in an all Schubert program.
- April 22nd 3pm Koerner Hall – Gerald Finley with Julius Drake with a mix of art song and British and American folksong.
- April 6th 2018 8pm Koerner Hall – Bernstein@100; a celebration of Lenny with the ARC Ensemble, Sebastian Knauer and the lovely Wallis Giunta.
Last night Philippe Jaroussky appeared with Les Violins du Roy and conductor Matthieu Lussier in a mostly Handel program at Koerner Hall. It was a very good evening. Les Violons du Roy is a pretty small band; less than twenty including continuo, but they manage to produce quite a big sound while remaining elegant and flexible in a thoroughly idiomatic baroque way. The instrumental component consisted of a Handel overture, Fux’ Ouverture in D minor and Johann Gottlieb Graun’s (not the better known Carl Graun who was apparently his brother) Symphony in B Flat Major. It was a pretty good sampling of what one might have heard in the courts of Germany in the early 1700s and rather enjoyable.