The line up for this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival, the first with Jonathan Crow as Artistic Director has been announced. It’s the usual mix of orchestral, chamber, piano and small scale vocal music for the most part. This being the sesquicentennial year it’s heavy on CanCon and, as in previous years, there are academy programs for both singers and instrumentalists.
Last night saw the Ensemble Studio’s big main stage performance. Rather than perform one of the COC’s current productions (hard to imagine how they could cast one from the current line up) we got scenes from three operas; two of them from the COC’s current season. They were performed with the orchestra on stage in front of the backdrop to the opening scene from the current Die Zauberflöte and in concert dress rather than costume (more or less, there were some nods to the roles in question) and with some blocking as far as limiting movement to the front of the stage permitted.
The Christina and Louis Quilico Awards are a singing competition for members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio. This year’s edition took place early yesterday evening in the RBA. Only five members of the Ensemble Studio were competing. Megan Quick and Sam Pickett were not for reasons that I don’t think were announced and Aaron Sheppard was sick. So it was a pretty brief affair. The format as usual was that each contestant offered three arias and got to sing the one of their choice with the judges choosing which of the other two they should sing.
Last night the COC began its run of Götterdämmerung, the last and longest opera in Wagner’s epic tetralogy at The Four Seasons Centre. It’s very different from Die Walküre and Siegfried. The visual elements that tied them together; tottering Valhalla, disintegrating world ash, gantries, dancers, heaps of corpses are mostly gone. In Tim Albery’s production the visuals are spare almost to abstraction. The Gibichung Hall is a CEO suite with computer monitors and red couches, both Brünnhilde’s rock and the Rhinemaidens’ hang out look improvised, almost like squatters’ camps. Costuming, apart from an occasional flashback, as in Waltraute’s scene, is severely modern business; grey suits, black dresses. Only Siegfried himself in tee shirt and leather jacket stands out from the corporate crowd. Dancing flames are replaced by red lights. Everything that can be understated is and the world ends not with an overflowing Rhine and collapsing Valhalla but a stately pas de quatre between Brünnhilde and the Rhinemaidens.
The tenth season at the Four Seasons Centre opened with the, by now traditional, lunchtime concert by the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Six of the eight singers and one of the two pianists are new recruits which is unusual and more of a chance to level set than see how anyone has developed.
On the face of it the idea of reorganising Schubert’s Winterreise for three female voices and staging it as a kind of allegory isn’t an obvious one but Collectìf’s As a Stranger worked remarkably well. The arrangement and distribution of the numbers was judicious; most of the songs went to a single singer, some were split and occasional and effective use was made of two or three voices in unison. The idea behind the split being to make mezzo Whitney O’Hearne the narrator/traveller while sopranos Jennifer Krabbe and Danika Lorèn embodied the malign and benign aspects/characters of the story. Heliconian Hall doesn’t offer a lot in the way of staging possibilities but well thought out costumes, a few props and a considerable, and quite sophisticated, video element added up to a pretty satisfying experience. In the last number Jennifer relieved Tom King at the piano to allow the Leierman to stagger off into the wintry night. All well thought out and well executed.
With Easter almost upon us it’s not surprising that the upcoming week is a bit light. Tonight Danika Lorèn and friends at Collectìf have a show at Heliconian Hall at 7.30pm. It’s called As a Stranger and is their take on Schubert’s Winterreise. I’ve been quite taken by this young group’s efforts to date. Tickets are available here. Then tomorrow night Andrew Haji, Megan Quick and a chamber orchestra drawn from the university faculty have a concert in Walter Hall at 7.30pm. Featured works include Schoenberg’s Die Waldtaube from Gurrelieder and Mahler’s (arr. Schoenberg) Das Lied von der Erde. Tickets from the MacMillan box office.