Soundstreams Electric Messiah 3 opened last night at the Drake Underground. Some things have changed from last year. There’s no chorus, the soloists are new, the instrumentation has changed. There’s now a harpsichord (Christopher Bagan) and an electric organ (Jeff McLeod) for instance. Some things are the same. There’s still extensive use of electric guitar (John Gzowski). Dancer Lybido and DJ SlowPitchSound are still there, as is Adam Scime as music director and electro-acoustical wizard. There’s still a mobile phone schtick. It feels both familiar and quite different.
The four new soloists each bring something of themselves to the piece. A kilted Jonathan MacArthur (getting ready for Yaksmas perhaps?) sings partly, and very beautifully, in Scots Gaelic. Adanya Dunn brings a fresh sound and Bulgarian. Elizabeth Shepherd brings jazz, French and a really effective “lounge jazz” He was despised accompanying herself on organ. Justin Welsh adds some Afro-Canadian touches. Most of the numbers are shared between the singers; moving and singing from different parts of the small space. This is exemplified by the opening Comfort ye, begun by Jonathan in Gaelic with singer and language and location constantly shifting. With no chorus, there’s much more space (and it’s easier to see). The visual and aural textures seem cleaner. The unconventional combination of instruments and electronics works really well. There’s enough Handel there but also much else to think about and enjoy.
Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah, now billed as “annual”, opened last night at a packed Drake Underground. It’s substantially reworked from last year’s show though structurally it’s similar in that the same arias are sung by the same singers in the same order with similar linking sections. The differences though are notable. The space is configured differently with more conventional seating which makes it feel more like a concert than a happening, though there’s still lots of movement and action happening in different parts of the space. The electro-acoustic orchestra is gone; replaced by keyboards. John Gzowski and his electric guitar are up on stage rather than tucked away in an alcove. The linking choral sections have been remixed and the influence of Adam Scime on that is clear. It’s still a very interesting show and well worth seeing but I enjoyed it rather less than last year.
So last night I intended to catch both the FAWN fundraiser/announcement gig at Electric Perfume and AtG’s opera pub night. I figured I could spend an hour up on the Danforth and still hit the Esplanade soon after the start at 9pm. The first part went fine. I saw a most enjoyable performance by Adam Scime of Kurtàg’s Message Consolation with some lovely movement work on the floor by Jenn Nichols. Also I was there long enough to hear Adanya Dunn and Katherine Watson do Anna Höstman’s Children’s Paradise for soprano and flute. There was news too that FAWN is working with Anna on a new full scale opera for some time in the future. I had to leave before the rest of the announcements but I’ll pass the news on when I get it.
FAWN Chamber Creative’s latest project is an opera called The Harvester. The libretto is adapted by Paul van Dyck from his own play of the same name and the music is by Aaron Gervais. The genesis (and we’ll come back to that) of the piece lies in the mind of soprano Stacie Dunlop who wanted a reduced orchestration version of Schoenberg’s Erwartung and a one acter that could be performed with the same band to form a double bill with it. Van Dyck’s play seemed to have the right stuff and Aaron was up for both parts of the project. Co-opting Kevin Mallon and his Aradia Ensemble and Amanda Smith to direct rounded out the project.
Adam Scime’s L’Homme et le Ciel opened last night at The Music Gallery in a production created by FAWN Chamber Creative. The story of a 2nd century BCE slave’s struggle between his spiritual aspirations and his less spiritual attraction to his beautiful owner might seem a bit obscure for a modern audience but it does provide a framework for exploring human emotions free of the need to rush on with a linear narrative. So, perhaps rather like Pyramus and Thisbe at the COC this is a piece that explores and questions human motivations and emotions rather than focussing on telling a story.
There’s not a lot in the calendar this week but what there is is high quality. Adam Scime’s L’Homme et le Ciel premiers at The Music Gallery on Thursday with a second performance on Friday. It’s a FAWN Chamber Creative production with Amanda Smith directing. It has already been extensively written about with contributions from Lydia Perovic, Jenna Douglas and myself so there shouldn’t be too many surprises, though with a new work there are bound to be some!
Then on Friday there’s a rare chance to see Sondra Radvanovsky in recital at Koerner Hall. The program is here. She has an unusual voice with a timbre unlike any other soprano I know and, of course, incredible technique rooted in the demands of the bel canto repertoire. Definitely worth checking out.
ETA: This just in. Pax Christi Chorale are doing Berlioz’ L’Enfance du Christ at Grace Church on the Hill on Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 3pm. It’s an impressive line up of soloists; Olivier Laquerre, Nathalie Paulin, Alain Coulombe, Sean Clark and Matthew Zadow. It also appears to be choreographed. Curious about that. Anyway full details, ticket info and so on is here.
I met with Adam Scime and Amanda Smith of FAWN Chamber Creative today to talk about chamber opera in general and their upcoming show L’Homme et le Ciel in particular. There are several questions that are exercising the minds of many people in the opera community as they try to create in and for the space that lies between the COC and an out of tune piano in a pub and that has value beyond providing performance opportunities for the participants.
There’s probably a rough consensus that the answer lies in “chamber opera” but less unanimity on what that means either in terms of forces employed or repertoire. Equally, there are differing views on where the potential audience is to be found. So where does FAWN sit on these issues?