Yesterday afternoon’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured local tenor Andrew Haji and Welsh baritone Jason Howard in a program somewhat loosely linked to England. Neither singer was, I think, 100% well (Haji’s cold was announced, Howrad’s merely obvious!) but both battled through manfully and gave us some fine singing. There were some interesting contrasts especially in the first half of the program. Andrew kicked off with Francesco Santoliquido’s I canti della sera. I’m no expert on Italian art song but these did sound like songs rather than opera arias, at least in the hands of Andrew and Rachel Andrist. In contrast, Jason’s set (Tosti’s L’ultima canzone, Respighi’s Nebbie, Tosti’s L’ideale and Verdi’s In solitaria stanza), with Robert Kortgaard sounded distinctly operatic and suited Jason’s darkish voice rather well.
Schubert’s Winterreise is sometimes described as the Everest of lieder singing and, as such, is something of a rite of passage for baritones. It’s much rarer to hear it sung by a soprano but today, on a day when there was more snow in Toronto than one encounters these days on the Hillary step, Adrianne Pieczonka, accompanied by Rachel Andrist, offered it up in the intimate Mazzoleni Hall. It took me two or three songs to get into it. The colours of the soprano voice are so not baritonal that the music sounded unfamiliar and disconcerting. By Der Lindenbaum though I was won over. Here was singing of a limpid beauty few baritones could match and from then on I was revelling in the new perspectives that hearing a soprano sing this music brings. I think it was greatly helped by Adrianne’s approach which definitely favoured bringing out the drama and the emotion of the text rather than wallowing in beautiful tone. That was there when she wanted it but there was much else besides. It was an emotional roller coaster from the (relative) optimism of Die Post through to the devastating last couple of numbers. By the end of Der Leiermann I was a puddle but possibly not quite as damp and deep as the critic sitting next to me (whatever Twitter might report). Rachel’s work at the piano was equally illuminating. This is a show they need to take to a much larger audience.
The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music opened a two performance run of Viardot’s Cendrillon last night at Mazzoleni Hall. The conceit was that we and the performers were all guests in Mme, Viardot’s salon and to this end we were all given a slip of paper with our character name on it but I promptly lost mine and it wasn’t actually needed for anything, Cute idea though. It also allowed for a production that fitted with the acutely limited staging resources of Mazzoleni. The piece is heavy on dialogue and it was presented in English, in an updated translation that had its moments. I doubt the Viardot household had ever heard of “organic, non GMO, fair trade” coffee.
Pauline Viardot is one of those names that crops up quite a bit when one is researching the opera of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She was a mezzo-soprano of some note, friend (at the least) of both Turgenev and Chopin, hosted a notable Parisian salon and composed; though, being female, she was not taken entirely seriously by the musical establishment of the time. Among her compositions is a “chamber operetta”, Cendrillon, designed for performance at her salon and written when Viardot was already in her eighties. It’s going to be performed again this fall in Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory and I sat down yesterday with director Joel Ivany to talk about the issues involved in staging such an unusual piece in a venue that’s not entirely opera friendly.
The Royal Conservatory announced the concert line up for the 2016/17 season last night. As usual it’s a very eclectic mix with over 100 concerts in a rather staggering variety of genres. The one loose them is the Canada Sesquicentennial with 70% or so of the line up having some CanCon. Here are the highlights for the classical vocal music fan.
Koerner Hall will feature recitals by Deb Voigt (November 11th) and Natalie Dessay (May 2nd) plus Phillippe Jaroussky with Les Violins du Roy (April 13th).
The GGS fall opera is Viardot’s Cendrillon with Peter Tiefenbach as music director in Mazzoleni Hall (November 18th and 19th). The big spring production, at Koerner, will be Piccini’s La Cecchina with Les Dala conducting (March 15th and 17th). No word on directors yet. There’s also the GGS Vocal Showcase in Mazzoleni Hall on February 4th.
To Mazzoleni Hall yesterday to hear Christina Campsall’s graduating recital. I think over the course of the year she has become my “top tip” for this year’s graduating class at the Conservatory and nothing that happened yesterday did anything to shake that judgement. It was a pretty intense program that was definitely more shade than light but that, I think, rather suits her voice. The opening set, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, was a case in point. Dark, brooding texts, dark, brooding music and a dark, brooding voice with plenty of power. We have a mezzo here not a second soprano! That said, her high notes are all there and there seems to be plenty of power all through the registers, though to be fait I’ve only seen her once in a large hall and that was in operetta. Very good German too with a distinct northern inflection. All the consonants!
The Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase at Mazzoleni Hall last night was a chance to see twenty of the school’s singers in action. It was a curious mix actually; one bass, one baritone, a handful of tenors and mezzos and a lot of sopranos. There was a huge range of age and experience too from 18 year old first years to quite seasoned post-grads. As usual with these things I’m not going to attempt to be comprehensive but instead focus on the highlights as I saw them. Continue reading