Yesterday’s free concert in the RBA featured four members of the Ensemble Studio. Megan Quick and Stéphane Mayer gave us Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen followed by Sam Pickett and Rachel Kerr with Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. The first set was interesting in that I was so engrossed by Stéphane’s playing that at times I almost drifted away from the singing. He really is a bit remarkable. Few collaborative pianists have that effect. Megan continues to develop as a singer. She has a big, dark mezzo that’s actually so operatic I’m not sure it’s heard to best advantage in lieder with piano accompaniment. Still, she’s developing interpretive skills and her German diction has improved out of all recognition in the past eighteen months. It’s now very good. She took the first song, Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit, really slowly but had the control to pull it off and there was some real lyricism in Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz.
Coming up this next week. Tomorrow Toronto Operetta Theatre are performing Calixa Lavallée’s The Widow. He’s the dude who wrote the music for O Canada! so no idea what to expect. It’s at the Jane Mallett Theatre at 3pm. Monday at 7pm at the Zoomerplex is the IRCPA Singing Stars of Tomorrow concert. My interview with Brett Polegato about it is here. And this is the link for ticket purchase.
UoT Opera’s fall production of Don Giovanni will open in three weeks time. Today, in Walter Hall we got a few hints on what we may be seeing plus some semi staged excerpts.
For director Marilyn Gronsdale one way into Don Giovanni (and she accepts that there are many) is to see it as being about how the actions of the powerful impact the lives of the many. In a sexual context it’s clearly of relevance to our times with a serial groper in the White House, a British cabinet minister out on his ear for sexual impropriety and one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures rapidly being cast into outer darkness. One technique to be used to emphasise this is a silent chorus of women who will witness/bear witness to the action. Maybe this is something like the Land Assembly in Peter Hinton’s take on Louis Riel? We also learned that the design aesthetic will be stylized 1940s film noir and that we may be in for a surprise with the ending.
Act 2 sextet: Brendan Friesen, Matthew Cairns, Alyssa Durnie, Jamie Groote, Sarah Abelard, Alex Halliday (I think)
Yesterday’s RBA concert was titled Celebrating the Invictus Games. Now the Invictus Games is a sporting competition for athletes disabled on military service. It has royal patronage and has clearly become part of the official pageantry of celebrating all things military, as witnessed by the presence of the Lieutenant Governors of Ontario and Alberta at yesterday’s concert. For me it raises all kinds of questions about why we put the military on a pedestal and how we do it and that is very tied up with the choice of rep at a concert like yesterdays. I’ll come back to that at the end of this piece, after reviewing what we actually heard.
Yesterday at noon we had the traditional season opening performance by the COC Ensemble Studio in the RBA; the Meet the Young Artists concert. There were two new singers and a new pianist joining six members returning from last year. First up was Danika Lorèn with Deh vieni non tardar. I think I’ve run out of new things to say about Danika. It’s all there; a very easy upper register, interesting colours and a growing degree of artistic assurance. I just want to see her on the big stage. Stéphane Mayer was at the piano with his usual sympathetic elegance. He really is rather good!
Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron is a very peculiar opera. It’s pretty much an extended debate about the nature of God cast in highly abstract terms. So who better to direct it than the almost unbearably cerebral Romeo Castellucci. Previous encounters with his work have been puzzling, thought provoking (and WTF provoking) but never dull. All those terms could be deployed to describe the production recorded at L’Opéra nationale de Paris in 2015.
Yesterday’s lunchtime recital in the RBA featured three current members of the COC Ensemble Studio. First up was tenor Aaron Sheppard making his adieux with Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation; a setting of texts by Thomas Hardy. It’s an interesting cycle; quite spare with, despite its lack of density, an intricate piano part that reveals some interesting chromaticism. The vocal line calls for great delicacy and control with occasionally injections of power. We got all that in a very fine performance by Aaron, and by Stéphane Mayer at the piano. It was probably the best performance I’ve heard from Aaron. He’s always had a rather beautiful, but perhaps too delicate voice. Here the control, phrasing and emphasis was all there but so was some oomph when needed. His performance was very true to the texts which have that same quality that Houseman exudes; Merry England with Death just peeking in from around the corner when one least expects it. Good stuff.