Transformations

Aaron Sheppard - May 10 - Kevin Lloyd - resizedYesterday’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.

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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.

The Ensemble Studio do Mozart, Bellini and Handel

Last night saw the Ensemble Studio’s big main stage performance.  Rather than perform one of the COC’s current productions (hard to imagine how they could cast one from the current line up) we got scenes from three operas; two of them from the COC’s current season.  They were performed with the orchestra on stage in front of the backdrop to the opening scene from the current Die Zauberflöte and in concert dress rather than costume (more or less, there were some nods to the roles in question) and with some blocking as far as limiting movement to the front of the stage permitted.

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Here we go again

The tenth season at the Four Seasons Centre opened with the, by now traditional, lunchtime concert by the COC’s Ensemble Studio.  Six of the eight singers and one of the two pianists are new recruits which is unusual and more of a chance to level set than see how anyone has developed.

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Where there’s a Will

So the Toronto Summer Music Festival continued last night with a Shakespeare themed show called A Shakespeare Serenade.  Curated and directed by Patrick Hansen of McGill it fell into two parts.  Before the interval we got Shakespeare scenes acted out and then the equivalent scene from an operatic adaptation of the play.  After the interval it was a mix of Sonnets and song settings in an overall staging that was perhaps riffing off The Decameron.  Patrick Hansen and Michael Shannon alternated at the piano.

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Night of the living mezzos

As previously revealed the line up for last night’s Centre Stage; the COC’s gala competition cum Ensemble Studio final audition featured four mezzos, two sopranos and two baritones.  Not a tenor to be had.  As was the case two years ago the competition was split into two parts; a late afternoon session for an invited audience and an early evening public session separated by a cocktail reception.  Each singer presented one aria in each session.  Accompaniment was provided by the COC Orchestra with music director Johannes Debus.

The Lieutenant Governor with the contestants

The Lieutenant Governor with the contestants

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Line up for Centre Stage announced

centrestageSo we now know who will be singing at Centre Stage, the COC’s gala competition for aspiring young singers with both cash prizes and places in the Ensemble Studio up for grabs.  There are, I think, only two that I’m at all familiar with; soprano Eliza Johnson who was a finalist last year and baritone Zachary Read who was a rather good Sid in UoT Opera’s Albert Herring a couple of years ago.  The other six are mezzo-sopranos Emily D’Angelo, Lauren Eberwein, Marjorie Maltais and Pascale Spinney, soprano Samantha Pickett and baritone Bruno Roy.  Wow! Four mezzos so the mezzo mafia will likely be ecstatic.  No tenors but with four already in the Ensemble Studio that’s probably a good thing.  Centre Stage is on November 3rd at 5.30pm at the Four Seasons Centre with a cocktails (well wine mostly) and rather good snacks before the competition itself.  Tickets are $100 from the COC box office or coc.ca.