I went to see Whitney Mather sing yesterday afternoon. It was her second masters degree performance at Walter Hall with David Eliakis at the piano. (Probably the first time I’ve heard David play a proper piano!)
It was an interesting and well chosen program that allowed Whitney to demonstrate her musicianship and sensitivity to text. For the most part it avoided overly obvious territory, starting with Purcell’s rarely heard The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation which was followed by the obligatory CanCon. In this case John Greer’s The Red Red Heart; settings of poems by Marianne Bindig. The Purcell allowed some tasteful decoration and an opportunity to display appropriately baroque style. The Greer, like so many modern songs, perhaps had more of interest in the piano line than for the voice but it did allow a brief coloratura flourish.
Next up were Respighi’s Quattro Rispetti Toscani to texts by Arturo Birga. These are rather beautiful songs and should be heard more often. Whitney brought out both the pathos and humour in the rather rustic (Tuscan dialect?) texts.
After the interval we were on more familiar ground with Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen. Tiago Delgado played the clarinet part quite beautifully and Whitney managed the crazy pace of the piece very well, managing to maintain a clear sense of shape and line. She wrapped up with Milhaud’s Chansons de Ronsard. These are a bit of a tour de force. Some passages are really fast and much of the music lies high in the soprano range. Whitney may not have the easiest, most beautiful, high notes ever but she does have all the notes and she hit them here with accuracy and without sense of strain. She was particularly impressive in the crazy fast Tais-toi, babillarde.
All in all not a bad way to spend a late Saturday afternoon!
Barbara Hannigan gave a masterclass for four students last night at Mazzoleni Hall. I’ve been to quite a few masterclasses and it’s the second one of Hannigan’s that I have sat in on. Like everything else she does her teaching style is unique, fascinating, incredibly illuminating and, at the same time, slightly terrifying. Part of me wants to review like an “event” and part of me wants to be very subjective and impressionistic. I think I’m going to do a bit of both.
The Academy Program is an important part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. It allows selected young artists; singers, collaborative pianists and chamber/orchestral musicians, to work with experienced professionals in an intensive series of coachings, masterclasses etc culminating in a concert series. This year the mentors for the vocal/collaborative piano component were pianist Craig Rutenberg, who has worked everywhere and with everybody, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; a last minute replacement for an indisposed Anne Schwannewilms. I didn’t make it to any of the masterclasses, though word on the street is that they were exceptional, but I did make it to yesterday’s lunchtime concert in Walter Hall.
This concert was the culmination of several days of workshops involving Wallis Giunta, Jordan de Souza and eighteen emerging artists; both singers and pianists. It’s a comparatively unusual opportunity to focus on contemporary repertoire for a while and the results were fun. As usual with these multi-participant efforts I’m not going to attempt to be exhaustive but just concentrate on my personal highlights.
Apocalypsis was actually my second show yesterday. Earlier in the day I was at an opera “meet up” organised by Alaina Viau of LooseTEA Music Theatre. This was held at a bar on Bloor Street (actually inside the Intercontinental Hotel) and featured a performance of Love in the Age of AutoCorrect; an adaptation by Alaina and Markus Kopp of Mozart’s Bastien et Bastienne which first saw the light at Rosemarie Umetsu’s last August.
It was an interesting experience. Being in a bar not closed off for the event meant that people wandered in from the hotel not expecting to be caught up in an opera performance (and they did look like typical weekend denizens of a luxury hotel). It also meant that the performances were not exactly listened to with Mahlerian dedication. There was a fair amount of chatter and it can’t have been easy for the trio of Greg Finney, Keenan Viau and the ridiculously cute Whitney Mather. The acoustic wasn’t great either but these three were very funny and sang rather well and the piece is more fun Mozart’s original!
It’s a pretty cool idea really and I enjoyed it. I wonder if it would work in a pub with decent beer rather than a bar with overpriced cocktails and crap wine?