Next week is rather back end loaded. There’s not much on early in the week but then things hot up. On Thursday Against the Grain host the monthly opera pub night at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club at 9pm. This time we are promised Topher and present and past members of the Ensemble Studio. That evening is also the opening of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company show Brundibár which I previewed last week and which runs until March 5th. Also on Thursday there’s the opening of R. Murray Schafer’s Odditorium, presented by Soundstreams at the Crow’s Theatre. That one runs until the 5th. Finally, on Saturday the amazing Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq is appearing with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall in a concert that features two world premiers and a Canadian premier.
Thursday seems to be the big day next week. Ileana Montalbetti and Rachel Andrist have a lunchtime recital in the RBA. There’s Strauss and Mozart and Beethoven and more. Ileana has been a really impressive Gutrune in Götterdämmerung so I’m excited to see her in recital. That evening there’s a choice of the annual COC Ensemble Studio performance at the Four Seasons Centre where the Ensemble members will be offering staged scenes, with full orchestra, from Mozart’s La finta giardiniera, Bellini’s Norma and Handel’s Ariodante. The alternative is Tapestry Songbook VII featuring Krisztina Szabó, Keith Klassen and Stephen Philcox performing numbers from Tapestry’s extensive back catalogue. That’s at the Ernest Balmer Studio at 7.30pm. There are repeat shows on Friday at 7.30pm and 10pm. Looks like both 7.30pm shows are sold out but late night Friday is still available. Operaramblings’ extensive spy network (not Louise Mensch) suggests that patrons may also learn something to their advantage. The day before, Wednesday at 7.30pm, there’s a Don Giovanni in concert at Royal St. George’s Chapel. Actually seeing as how dancer Bill Coleman is involved it may not be entirely straight “in concert”. The cast includes Alexander Dobson in the title role, Katherine Whyte, Colin Ainsworth, Taiya Kasahara, Vania Chan and Matthew Li plus a “special guest”. Tickets at www.opera-is.com or on the door. There is still time to catch the COC’s winter offerings. The Magic Flute plays today, tomorrow and Friday with the last Götterdämmerung next Saturday. That last seems to be sold out but the usual rush and standing room deals may apply.
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.
Messiah season gets underway with Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah on Monday. On Wednesday night, Opera 5 have a seasonal fundraiser at the Extension Room including an ugly sweater comp (Greg Finney at very short odds). Then on Saturday owing to bizarre scheduling you can take your pick from the ROH’s Così at Bloor Hot Docs or the Met’s L’Amour de Loin at just about any Cineplex Odeon. Both essentially at lunchtime, for some value of lunchtime.
It’s that time of year when one ponders the vexed question of how many Messiahs, and which ones, one is going to see this year. For Torontonians there seem to be four principal contenders; two fairly conventional and two less so. At the conventional end of things there’s the TSO of course. This year it’s back to the usual performing edition though fans of Sir Andrew’s “Big Fat Messiah” as heard last year can now acquire it on CD from the Chandos label. Baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan conducts so it’s probably as close to HIP as the TSO are ever going to get. Soloists are Yulia Van Doren, Abigail Levis, Isaiah Bell and Daniel Okulitch. I’m not familiar with either of the ladies but the guys are top notch. As ever the orchestra will be joined by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. There are five performances at Roy Thomson Hall on the 18th at 3pm and the 19th, 20th, 21st and 23rd at 8pm.
This year’s Soundstreams concert season was supposed to feature a performance by the Nelson Mandela University Choir. The current student and other social unrest in South Africa led to that tour being cancelled and left Soundstreams with the problem of organising a replacement line up in just four and a half weeks. I think they should be congratulated for sticking with the South African theme and producing the line up we saw last night subtitled A Tribute to Nelson Mandela’s Dream.
Today at 2.30pm Voicebox:Opera in Concert are performing Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. It’s Bellini’s take on Bandello rather than Shakespeare, not a lot happens and the orchestral music is ho hum so a semistaged version with piano isn’t a bad bet if the singing is good. Juliet is the up and coming Caitlin Wood. Romeo, on whom much depends, is Anita Krause. It’s at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.