Women on the Edge

Today’s RBA recital was Allyson McHardy and Rachel Andrist in a program called Women on the Edge.  What we got was a sampler from what will eventually be a longer show.  First up was Schumann’s Poèmes de Marie, Reine des Écossais.  It’s a very late Schumann work and, I think, one of his best vocal works.  But there’s some history here.  Schumann set German translations of five poems by Mary in French plus a Latin prayer Mary’s Latin is very classically elegant). The original French was subsequently rearrranged by Bernard Diamant for Maureen Forrester and that’s the version Allyson sang today.  But wait, there’s a snag.  The second piece Après la naissance de son fils is a bit of an anomaly.  There is no French text by Mary Stuart or anyone else.  The text is Scots and probably not by Mary at all.  Some sources suggest it was actually graffiti in Edinburgh castle.  How/why did Diamant render it into French?  Who knows.  Scholarly quibbling aside these are really gorgeous works and beautifully suited to Allyson’s voice.  She has a really beautiful voice and it seems to be gravitating to contralto territory as she (tries desperately to find appropriately not ungallant phrase).  Anyhow it was very fine.

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Is it May already?

natdessYes it is and here’s what’s coming up.  Sadly Natalie Dessay’s Koerner gig tonight has been cancelled.  Get well soon and please come back!  Tomorrow at 8pm the TSO has a concert with Carla Huhtanen featuring Morawetz’ Carnival Overture, Boulez’ Le soleil des eaux and Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherezade.  On Sunday Lyndsay Promane has a recital at 3pm at Islington United Church with works by Dowland, Faure, Schubert, Vaughan Williams and Strauss.  Admission is by donation

Next week there are a bunch of free concerts in the RBA at noon.  On Tuesday it’s Alysson McHardy and Rachel Andrist with a program of Schumann and Zemlinsky.  Wednesday sees Aaron Sheppard and Stéphane Mayer perform Finzi’s A Young Man’s Exhortation.  They will also be joined by Sam Pickett and Megan Quick.  Finally, on Thursday Lauren Eberwein, who is sounding really good recently, and members of the COC Orchestra will perform two J.S. Bach cantatas; Ich habe genug and Vergnügte Ruh.

Louis Riel and Tosca continue at the COC.

And so, Mr. Riel…

So here is the promised review of last night at the Four Seasons Centre.  I have to phrase it that way because it was more than Somers’ opera Louis Riel though that of course was the major event.  The evening kicked off with a performance in the RBA by the Git Hayetsk Dance Group.  This is a west coast group and I’m not going to try and get into the complexities of nation, lineage and clan involved but it was a moving performance of traditional songs and dance with a brilliantly witty piece involving the trickster raven and a lot of stolen handbags. This was also the beginning of the public conversation about the use of the Nsga’a mourning song in Louis Riel.  That conversation continued when the same group made a brief appearance on the main stage immediately before the opera performance.  I understand that the intent is for the leader of the dancers to report back to the matriarch of the clan that owns the song on what happened and for the conversation to continue from there.

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Looking forward to Riel

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(left to right) Russell Braun as Louis Riel, Jani Lauzon as the Prison Guard, Allyson McHardy as Julie Riel and director Peter Hinton rehearsing Act III, scene v – Photo by Tanner Davies for the COC

Harry Somers’ Louis Riel was written to “celebrate” Canada’s 100th birthday and was performed at the COC in 1967 and 1968 and was given a studio TV broadcast treatment on the CBC in 1969.  Eventually that broadcast made it onto DVD and I reviewed it about four years ago.  The COC is now reviving it for Canada’s 150th in a new production by Peter Hinton, a director noted for his stage work with native artists and native themes.  Yesterday I spent an hour at the COC watching a working rehearsal of one of the scenes and this morning I took another look at the DVD.

I had hoped to be able to offer some real insights into what one might expect to see when this production opens on April 20th but, to be perfectly honest, the deeper I dig the less certain I become about anything to do with it.  I know that Hinton and the COC are taking enormous pains to recreate the work in a way that’s sensitive to 2017 and the different way that, we hope or aspire to, treat Canada’s original peoples (some of us do anyway).  But what a challenge it seems to be.  Let me try and explore some themes though you will find few conclusions.

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And now, the TSO

tso-music-director-peter-oundjian-photo-credit-sian-richardsHot on the heels of the RCM, the Toronto Symphony has announced its 2017/18 season, whih will be Peter Oundjian’s last as Music Director.  There’s lots of sesquicentennial stuff of course but here’s a summary of the interesting vocal stuff (rock and roll and other children’s music omitted).

September 27,28 and 30, 2017: Brahm’s German Requiem with Erin Wall and Russell Braun.

October 19 and 20, 2017: Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Susan Platts and Michael Schade.  This is billed as a Maureen Forrester commemoration.

November 9 and 11, 2017: Jeffrey Ryan’s Afghanistan:Requiem for a Generation with Measha Brueggergosman, Alysson McHardy, Colin Ainsworth and Brett Polegato.

December 16, 19, 20, 22 and 23, 2017: Handel’s Messiah with Karina Gauvin, Kristina Szabó, Frédéric Antoun and Joshua Hopkins.

April 26 and 28, 2018: A concert performance of Bernstein’s Candide with Tracy Dahl, Judith Forst, Nicholas Phan and Richard Suart.

June 2 and 3, 2018: A concert called Water Music with Leslie Ann Bradley singing Dvorak, Schubert and Mozart.

June 28 and 29, 2018:  Peter Oundjian signs off with a Beethoven 9.  Soloists tba.

Full details here.

 

Almost the Last Night of the Proms

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Yes, those flags are stuck to my head

Last night’s Toronto Summer Music Festival concert, continuing the the me of “London Calling” was titled (Almost) the Last Night of the Proms and was a sort of recreation of that weird fusion of music and retro imperialism that hits the Albert Hall once per year.  I went because I was curious.  Toronto is no longer terribly British and it’s also notoriously buttoned down.  Koerner Hall is a 1200 seat concert hall with no promenade space.  The concert wasn’t the celebratory conclusion of eight weeks of promenading.  Could it remotely match the atmosphere of the Last Night and, if not, would there be musical merit enough to make it worthwhile?  The answer, sadly, is not really though some people did try.

 

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Requiem come to life?

Joel Ivany’s much anticipated “semi-staged” version of Mozart’s Requiem K. 626 finally saw the light yesterday evening at Roy Thomson Hall.  There were some interesting ideas but, ultimately, I didn’t think I came away with any new insight into the piece or life or death or anything really(*).  I’ll go into the reasons but first I should describe how it was performed.  The mass is prefaced by the slow movement from the Clarinet Quintet.  The lights go down.  The five players enter via the aisles in the audience lower level and take their seats (sadly to applause which we had been asked to refrain from).  As the quintet is played (and it was very beautiful) the players are joined by the rest of the orchestra, the choirs, conductor and soloists enter through the audience and from the wings and deposited slips of paper (I think) on two benches at front of stage left and right.  Names of the dead?  Probably and that’s a nice touch though scarcely original.  The quintet concludes.  More unwanted applause.  At this point the orchestra are seated , more or less conventionally, around the conductor with the choirs around them.  There are lots of fancy chairs.  The soloists are more or less in conventional position in front of the audience.  Everyone, except the mezzo and the soprano, are in black.  The very crowded stage is quite dimly lit in bluish tones.  As the mass progresses, the soloists interact in various ways.  The choirs gesture in rather obvious ways; the text says “king” so we pump our fists, the text talks of “writing” so we make scribbly gestures.  At some point the soloists start to rearrange the pieces of paper with the names of the dead in a sort of game of Dearly Departed Patience.  The soloists exit through the orchestra.  The lights go down.  The End.

TSO Mozart Requiem (Malcolm Cook photo)

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