Fruitful and Sacred Ground

Yesterday’s recital in the RBA was given by soprano Simone Osborne and the very busy pianist Stephen Hargreaves.  The program began with three Mozart songs that I was not familiar with; Oiseaux, si tous les ans, Dans un bois solitaire and An Chloe.  They were unfamiliar to me but Mozartian in a pleasing, intimate way; very much songs rather than concert arias.  They got a clean, rather dramatic reading with real feeling from both parties.  Next came the Ariettes oubliées of Debussy.  Here we have texts by Verlaine of a mostly languorous ecstasy variety with a complex, very impressionistic piano part.  Indeed they really do sound like pieces composed by someone who prefers writing for the piano and Stephen brought out their somewhat ethereal qualities nicely.  Still the soprano gets to spin some very beautiful languorously ecstatic lines and there’s even one piece; Chevaux de bois, where the mood changes and the singer can have some fun.  Which Simone did.

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Carmen in Cuba?

I caught the second performance of the current run of Carmen at the COC this afternoon.  It’s a revival of the production previously seen in 2010 but with, we are told, debuting director Joel Ivany being given some freedom to change things up a bit.  Obviously he was mostly constrained to use the existing sets and costumes which, for reasons that escape me, transplants the piece to 1940s Cuba which was, as far as I know, markedly short of both gypsies and bull fights but there you go.  Actually it matters scarcely at all because both sets and costumes are generic scruffy Hispanic and could be anywhere from Leon to Lima.  For the first two acts too the blocking and Personenregie is pretty standard too.  It’s all really down to the chemistry between the singers and the quality of the acting and neither is anything to write home about.  It says a lot when Frasquita is scene stealing.  Fortunately it livens up a lot after the interval.  The third act is atmospheric and Micaëla’s aria is deeply touching and for the first time I felt genuine emotion.  It gets even better after that with a really effective use of the whole auditorium for the parade which had much of the audience clapping along and a clever stage set up for the crowd during the final confrontation scene.  I don’t think it’s a production for the ages but it’s better than merely serviceable and I’ve seen much worse Carmens.  And, frankly, it’s simply not realistic to expect one of the season’s cash cows to push the envelope very far.

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Upcoming events – mostly November

AbrahamsOratorio_Poster_v1.4As ever there’s no shortage of announcements of new and interesting stuff in the Toronto area.  Here are a few from the inbox.  Next week, there’s a premiere of David Warrack’s oratorio Abraham.  It’s a multi-faith event in aid of the Syrian Refugee Program at Metropolitan United Church.  It’s on Wednesday, October 28th at 8 p.m. at Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street East, Toronto.  Richard Margison stars as Abraham and joining him are five principal vocalists; Ramona Carmelly, Meredith Hall, Hussein Janmohamed, George Krissa and Theresa Tova, three choirs: the Elmer Iseler Singers, the Jarrahi Sufi Choir with Whirling Dervishes,and the Bach Children’s Chorus  David Warrack will be at the piano.  Whirling Dervishes?  Get in!  It’s a good cause.  General admission tickets are $54; $36 for students.  $75 VIP tickets offer reserved seating and an invitation to the post-concert reception.  Tickets and more information at www.abrahamoratorio.ca. Continue reading

Lunchtime concerts

2015-03-26-COC-NightsDreams-070The Canadian Opera Company has just announced the 2015/16 season line up for the free lunchtime concert series in Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  Now under the curatorship of Claire Morley there’s the usual incredible array of chamber music, dance, piano, jazz and world music as as well as, of course, the vocal series.

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Jeunesses Musicales

symoon Last night I was fortunate enough to be at a musical evening organised by Jeunesses Musicales Ontario.  The umbrella organisation has come a long way since being founded during WW2 as an anti-Nazi youth movement (*).  In Ontario it’s main activity is promoting musical events for young people and providing performance opportunities for young artists; notably an annual song recital tour.  You may recall that I wrote about the kick off of the latest one in which Simone Osborne and Anne Larlee are performing across Canada with a show that includes a specially commissioned piece by Brian Current.   Continue reading

Falstaff again

Back to the COC’s production of Falstaff last night for a second look.  I felt I spent so much time last week trying to figure out who was who and what was what in this rather madcap comedy that I was really looking forward to seeing it in a more relaxed way.  I had figured out that there was a lot of detail to unpack that I had missed first time around; partly because I was attention challenged and partly because I had forgotten my opera glasses.  Last night; perched up in Ring 5, I watched a good part of this show through the glasses and saw many things I missed first time around.  I think I want to watch it from close up if I can, even if there’s an acoustical price to pay for that.

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The Revengers’ Comedy

Last night, the COC opened its 2014/15 season with Verdi’s Falstaff; a work I was not familiar with and one that turned out to be a bit of a surprise.  It’s not your usual Verdi.  It’s his last opera, composed when he was 80, and is not at all typical of his earlier work.  There are hardly any “big tunes” or even conventional arias.  The odd chorus harks back to an earlier style but much of the music is quite dark; heavy use in places of the lower pitched instruments, especially for a “comedy”.  Don’t take that as a criticism though.  It’s a musically and dramatically tight, even compact, work that is both incredibly funny and also something more disturbing.  Perhaps it’s as much about mortality as love.

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