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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Schoenberg meets Mahler

Megan-Quick-Headshot-240x300At Walter Hall last night to see the Faculty Artists Ensemble with Megan Quick and Andrew Haji conducted by Uri Mayer perform the chamber versions of Das Lied der Waldtaube from Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in the Schoenberg arrangement.  The main reason for going was to get as chance to hear Megan in something more substantial than the things I’ve seen her in with UoT Opera.  Plus, a chance to hear Andrew is always very welcome.

The orchestration for both these pieces may be chamber scale but it’s heavy on the winds and it takes a fair bit of power to deal with that in a space like Walter Hall.  It was clear in Das Lied der Waldtaube that Megan has that.  Her instrument is a rich, darkish mezzo with significant beauty of tone and she has great control.  If I were to be picky, I’d say she has a tendency to focus on producing beautiful sounds at the expense of the text to some extent but I’d say that about a lot of successful singers.  It’s a matter of taste and maybe something she will feel differently about after a spell with the Ensemble Studio.  The basics are there for sure and the piece left me wanting to listen to Gurrelieder in full again.  It’s been a long time.   Continue reading

Coming up

strangerWith Easter almost upon us it’s not surprising that the upcoming week is a bit light.  Tonight Danika Lorèn and friends at Collectìf have a show at Heliconian Hall at 7.30pm.  It’s called As a Stranger and is their take on Schubert’s Winterreise.  I’ve been quite taken by this young group’s efforts to date.  Tickets are available here.  Then tomorrow night Andrew Haji, Megan Quick and a chamber orchestra drawn from the university faculty have a concert in Walter Hall at 7.30pm.  Featured works include Schoenberg’s Die Waldtaube from Gurrelieder and Mahler’s (arr. Schoenberg) Das Lied von der Erde.  Tickets from the MacMillan box office.

 

The Telephone and The Medium

UoT Opera’s fall production opened last night at the MacMillan theatre.  It’s a double bill of Menotti works; The Telephone and The Medium.  The former was cleverly updated by Michael Patrick Albano to reflect the age of the smartphone.  It actually seems more relevant than ever and, slight as it is – an extended joke about a girl who won’t get off the phone long enough for her fiancé to propose – it was wryly amusing. The Medium I’m not so sure about.  It’s a contrived piece written in the 1940’s but set a few years earlier about a fake medium and her deluded clients.  It seems dated, not so much in the sense that seance attendance is pretty unusual today, but in the extent to which the characters are clichéd, cardboard cut outs even.  The medium herself is bad enough but her sidekicks are her rather dippy, if kind, daughter and a boy who is mute (k’ching), Gypsy (k’ching) and “found wandering the streets” (k’ching, k’ching) “of Budapest” (k’ching, k’ching, k’ching).  The first act in which the fake seancery goes on isn’t bad but then the medium gets a shock; a real or imagined cold hand on her throat (probably imagined as she is a raging alcoholic) and decides to go straight.  The second act is pure bathos.  I can see why it was a Broadway hit in the 1940s but I think tastes have moved on.  And who the heck calls their daughter “Doodly”?

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