Anna Bolena at the COC

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, in a production by Stephen Lawless, opened last night at the COC.  Bel canto fans, canary fanciers and, just maybe, the rest of us should rush and see it.  The singing is extraordinary.  The cast is led by Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role and she gives, pretty much, a masterclass in bel canto technique.  The control is extraordinary with gleaming top notes, exquisitely floated pianissimo, genuine trills and real emotion.  Only a slight raspiness occasionally evident in the recits even hinted that this was a singer who was too sick to perform only a few days ago.  Where to go next among some very fine performances?  Bruce Sledge as Percy I think.  This was thrilling tenor singing with passion, ringing high notes and wonderful musicality.

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Looking ahead to May

marion nSo it looks like January is finally over and that means we can look ahead to next month.  Things are definitely winding down.  There’s the last Opera Pub of the season on the 3rd at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club.  The Vancouver Symphony is appearing with Bramwell Tovey at Roy Thomson Hall on the 26th with the highlight being Marion Newman singing Ancestral Voices; a piece Tovey wrote for her.  Also that evening the Canadian Children’s Opera opens a two performance run of Alice Ping Yee Ho’s new piece The Monkiest King. That’s at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

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Next week…

440x360_normaHere’s a preview of things to see/listen to next week.  It’s Met in HD season again and the next two Saturdays have broadcasts.  On the 7th it’s Bellini’s Norma with Sondra Radvanovsky and Joyce DiDonato.  It’s a David McVicar production and no prizes for guessing what happens when you cross McVicar and druids.  On the 14th it’s Die Zauberflöte with the Resident Groundhog conducting.  It’s the Julie Taymor production but given in full in German rather than the abridged ‘for kids” version.  The best thing about the cast is René Pape’s Sarastro.

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Newbury’s Norma on DVD

Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma made it to Toronto via San Francisco, Barcelona and Chicago with Sondra Radvanovsky singing the title role (at least some of the time) in all four cities.  It was recorded for DVD and Blu-ray at the Liceu in Barcelona in 2015.  Watching the DVD didn’t change my opinion of the production.  Here’s what I said about it on opening night in Toronto:

Kevin Newbury’s production is perhaps best described as serviceable.  I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any.  That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient.  The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus.  So, what does it look like?  It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest.  There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing.  Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes.  Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end.  All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.

There did seem to be far fewer pyrotechnics in the Barcelona staging though (either that or the video direction pretty much ignores them).

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Singing Stars of Tomorrow

Last night ten singers who had taken part in an intensive class/coaching with Sondra Radvanovsky showed us what they could do.  The program was organised and presented by the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists at the Alliance Française.  It says quite a lot about the current state of supply and demand in the opera world that nine of the ten singers were female and seven were sopranos.  We were given one aria per singer and a lot, inevitably I suppose, of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini with one aria apiece for Verdi and Puccini.

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Norma at the COC

Kevin Newbury’s production of Bellini’s Norma at the COC (co-pro with San Francisco, Chicago and the Liceu) is perhaps best described as serviceable.  I have seen various rather desperate efforts made to draw deep meaning from it but I really don’t think there is any.  That said, it looks pretty decent and is efficient.  The single set allows seamless transitions between scenes which is a huge plus.  So, what does it look like?  It’s basically a sort of cross between a barn and a temple with a back wall that can raised or moved out of the way to expose the druids’ sacred forest.  There’s also a sort of two level cart thing which characters ascend when they have something especially important to sing.  Costumes were said to have been inspired by Game of Thrones; animal skins, leather, tattoos (which actually don’t really read except up very close), flowing robes.  Norma herself appears to be styled, somewhat oddly, on a Klingon drag queen. The lighting is effective and there are some effective pyrotechnics at the end.  All in all a pretty good frame for the story and the singing.

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Week of September 19th

fleming_caaspeakers_photo-must-credit-decca_andrew-eccles-330x360This looks like the week the season really starts.  The big event is the season opener at the TSO on Wednesday where Renée Fleming is featured.  There’s Ravel’s Shéhérazade plus Puccini, Walton and others finishing up with three numbers from The King and I.  This one’s at Roy Thomson Hall at the slightly unusual time of 7pm.  The next night at the Alliance Française there’s a show called Singing Stars of Tomorrow.  It features ten young singers who will have been engaged in a day long workshop with Sondra Radvanovsky.  It’s organised by the IRCPA.  Tickets are $25 from ircpa.net.

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