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.
After the madness of November, December is much quieter. Messiahs aside there are only a handful of events of note. On Saturday at 7.30pm at Runnymede United Church the Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir have a concert of seasonal music which includes Kim André Arnesen’s Magnificat with Adanya Dunn as soloist. On Tuesday 5th the noon recital in the RBA features Simone McIntosh and Stéphane Mayer. The program hasn’t been published yet but I’m told it includes the Berg Seven Early Songs and a number of songs by Frank Bridge. On Thursday evening at 9pm it’s Opera Pub Night at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club. The theme is Messiah Pariah. You have been warned. The operatic event of the month is Against the Grain Theatre’s Bound. This uses a mash-up of Handel’s music to explore issues related to the current worldwide refugee crisis. It plays December 14th, 15th and 16th at the COC’s Jackman Studio. As of now, it’s sold out except for the final 9pm performance on the 16th. Toronto Consort have a Spanish themed Christmas show Navidad, featuring motets by Victoria and Guerrero plus villancicos and dances from Latin America. This one is on December 8th and 9th at 8pm and 10th at 3.30pm. Trinity St. Paul’s of course. Also this weekend, more performances of Tapestry Briefs: Winter Shorts (see last post).
I guess it’s starting to quieten down a bit. Next week there are a couple of things of interest. On Monday the Faculty Artists at UoT have a concert in Walter Hall with Uri Mayer conducting. It’s an all Mahler program with the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and the Fourth Symphony. The vocal soloists are Monica Whicher and Darryl Edwards. Later in the week the UoT Opera has its main fall production. This time it’s Don Giovanni conducted by Uri Mayer and directed by Marilyn Gronsdale. That’s in the MacMillan Theatre at 7.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a matinée on Sunday. There will, as usual be two casts; one on Thurs/Sat and the other Fri/Sun. On Friday there’s another Whose Opera is is Anyway? from LooseTEA Theatre; Toronto’s opera improv. That’s at 7.30pm at the Comedy Bar. They are moving from there (good!) to Bad Dog Theatre for their December show on the 20th which should also be hosting a monthly show in 2018.
Claude Vivier’s Musik für das Ende had to wait until 35 years after the composer’s death for its first fully staged performance. That happened last night at Crow’s Theatre under the auspices of Soundstreams. It forms the main and concluding part of a really interesting show directed by Chris Abraham.
The first part of the program is a monologue, Il faisait nuit, of Vivier returning to his Paris apartment and describing his life and his final composition. Written by Zack Russell and brilliantly played by Alex Ivanovici it’s a French/English piece based on extensive discussions with people who knew Vivier and is said to capture his verbal and physical mannerisms with uncanny accuracy. It also introduces us to key design elements of the evening. We, the audience, are lining the walls of a “black box”. The set is created by lighting effects and there is an electronic sound track. It’s a very immersive experience. Continue reading →
On Monday LooseTEA have another Whose Opera is it Anyway? show. It’s at 9.30pm at Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor West. Alaina Viau directs with hosting by Greg Finney, Natasha Fransblow at the piano and Jeff Boyd, Amanda Cogan, Adanya Dunn, Gillian Grossman, Rachel Krehm, Jonathan MacArthur, Erin Stone, and Lindsay Sutherland Boal doing silly things.
On Tuesday Lauren Eberwein and the Rosebud Quartet have a noon time concert in the RBA including the fascinating and very difficult Schoenberg String Quartet No.2. Barbara Hannigan was the last person to do that in the RBA so no pressure.
Wednesday evening is Centre Stage, the COC’s Gala/Singing Competition/Audition for the Ensemble Studio. Things kick off with booze and snacks at 5pm. It’s at the Four Seasons Centre of course.
Thursday, UoT Opera are previewing their Don Giovanni in a free concert at 12.10pm in Walter Hall. Later, at 9pm, it’s AtG’s Opera Pub Night at the Amsterdam Bicycling Club.
In the continuing runs department, Arabella closes out tomorrow at the COC but The Elixir of Love runs through the 4th. Soundstreams’ Müsik für das Ende, which opens tonight, runs all week at Crow’s Theatre and Opera Atelier’s The Marriage of Figaro also runs through the 4th.
It’s a bit of a crazy week coming up. On Monday at 8pm there’s the first in a series of young artists concerts presented by Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu and Yamaha Canada. This one features pianist Cindy Liu in an all Prokofiev program. It’s at Rosemarie’s atelier at 310 Davenport Road and tickets are $20 ($10 student).
Tuesday is a double header with Erin Wall performing at noon in the RBA in a program of Korngold, Debussy and Duparc. Then at 5.30pm at the Canadian Music Centre there’s a CD launch concert for Sing Me at Midnight; the latest recording from CASP featuring songs by John Greer. Both these events are free.