Moors and Christians

Schubert could write great melodies and he had a real affinity for the voice so one might expect him to have been successful when he turned his hand to opera.  He wasn’t with Fierrabras which wasn’t performed until decades after his death and has been revived seldom since, most recently at Salzburg in 2014 where it was recorded. It’s easy to see why.  The libretto is awful and even if the music were really amazing, which it isn’t but more of that later, I doubt it would have made much impact.

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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.

 

Why productions succeed in one place but not another?

12-13-02-b-MC-D-3024In an age of co-productions many opera productions are seen in multiple houses.  Some of them we get to see in multiple guises.  For example I’ve seen Tcherniakov’s Don Giovanni on DVD and will be seeing it live later this season in Toronto.  Spmething that’s been fermenting in my brain for a while now is why the same production can get a drastically different reception in different places.  The piece that first made me think about this was Chris Alden’s Die Fledermaus.  This was generally well received in Toronto (more perhaps by my friends and acquaintances than the print media but that’s par for the course) but universally panned in London when it played at ENO.  Bryan’s interesting comments about the Carsen Falstaff kicked off the train of thought again and made me want to put some tentative thoughts into writing.

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The COC’s 2014/15 season announced

Russell Braun as Don Giovanni - Photo Credit Javier del Real

Russell Braun as Don Giovanni – Photo Credit Javier del Real

Yesterday evening saw the announcement of the line up for the COC’s 2014/15 season.  The usual rather prosaic press conference was replaced with a glitzy reception and main stage show featuring Brent Bambury of the COC interviewing Alexander Neef, Johannes Debus and others plus piano accompanied performances by Simone Osborne, Russel Braun, Robert Gleadow, Charlotte Burrage and Aviva Fortunata.

There were few surprises, in itself no surprise given the number of official and unofficial “leaks” this time around.  There are three productions new to Toronto, all COC copros, and three revivals so it’s an “all COC” season with no rentals or other imports.  Here’s what’s coming up:

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Renée and her frocks

John Cox’s production of Massenet’s Thaïs at the Metropolitan Opera is probably most remembered for the rather extraordinary collection of Christian Lacroix frocks that Met perennial Renée Fleming gets to wear.  It’s rather more than that.  In fact it’s a pretty good example of what the Met does best.  It’s sumptuous and spectacular and has a pretty much ideal cast which, together, go a long way toward making this curious piece rather enjoyable.

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Schade rocks

Today’s summer second thought is the 2004 Salzburg festival production of Purcell’s King Arthur.  I really enjoyed this first time around and I think it stands up extremely well to repeat viewing.  I pretty much stand by my original review but certain aspects of the production did stand out on repeat viewing.  The first thing that struck me is how these English 17th century works are very much a blend of the vulgar and the sublime (one could argue that that is the defining characteristic of English culture; from Chaucer to Trooping the Colour).  This production, like Jonathan Kent’s The Fairy Queen, successfully blends the two elements.  There’s a really good example at the very end where Michael Schade’s panty strewn rock star “Harvest Home” is followed by a gorgeous and dignifieed “Fairest Isle from Barabara Bonney but there’s lots more; much of reinforced by the sort of special effects that a Restoration audience would have loved.  There’s also some real depth in how it’s done.  First up I found the Merlin dressed as banker’s wife episode very funny but just that.  On rewatching I realised that much more is going on as the scene segs into Merlin explaining to Arthur that everything around him is an illusion.

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Summer second thoughts

The heat and humidity of a Toronto summer aren’t especially conducive to dealing with most of what’s in my DVD review pile right now (Wagner chiefly!) and the live music pickings are slim as, Toronto Summer Music Festival aside, music has departed for the land of moose and loon.  I thought, therefore, that I might take another look at some old favourites and see how they shape up to a second look.  I thought I’d focus on works where I have seen many subsequent productions or, perhaps, on works once seen only on DVD but which I had more recently been able to see live.

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