Arabella at the COC

Tim Albery’s production of Richard Strauss’ 1933 opera Arabella, first seen at Santa Fe in 2012, finally made it to Toronto last night.  It’s, I believe, a Canadian premiere for the piece, which is a bit shocking for an important opera by a major composer.  It’s not a perfect piece.  The librettist, the incomparable Hugo von Hofmannsthal, died before he and Strauss could revise the second and third acts and there are places where it feels a bit unfinished but it’s still an impressive work.  The plot’s a bit contrived perhaps, though no more so than many more famous operas, but there’s real depth of humanity and Mandryka, the landowner/tribal chief from the southern fringes of the Habsburg empire, is a really fascinating study.

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Coming up…

And in the coming week…  On Tuesday there is a treat for fans of contemporary music.  Krisztina Szabó will be performing the Berio Folksongs in the RBA at noon.  She will be accompanied by members of the Esprit Orchestra and the programme also includes Andrew Staniland’s Orion Constellation Theory and Alexina Louie’s From the Eastern Gate.

Thursday sees the opening of the COC season with Strauss’ Arabella in a production by Tim Albery starring Erin Wall, Jane Archibald and Tomasz Konieczny.  Check out this article by Lydia Perovic for a South Slav’s take on an opera with South Slav references including that hardy Strauss perennial; hunting bears in Croatia.  Arabella runs until the 28th at the Four Seasons Centre.

On Saturday, indigenous production company Red Sky Productions are collaborating with the TSO in a new piece by Eliot Britton; Adizokan.  It’s a fusion of dance, video electro-acoustics and music in both western symphonic and indigenous traditions.  7.30pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

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Soile Isokoski in recital

Last night, at Walter Hall, Finnish soprano Soile Isokoski and pianist Martin Katz gave a recital as part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival.  The programme of Schumann, Wolf, Strauss and Sibelius was an object lesson in restraint and elegance.  There were no histrionics or gimmicks, just very fine, subtly expressive singing and brilliantly supportive pianism.

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Spectacular Die Liebe der Danae

Richard Strauss’ Die Liebe der Danae is one of his least performed operas so it’s not very familiar to most opera goers.  I wrote about its performance history and provided a plot summary in my review of a 2011 recording at the Deutsche Oper, which is the only video recording besides the 2016 Salzburg one which forms the subject of this post.

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Songbird

songbird - coverLayla Claire is one of a handful of young Canadian singers making something of a splash on both sides of the Atlantic with major roles in Glyndebourne, Zürich, Toronto and Salzburg and an upcoming Pamina at the Met.  Her debut recital CD Songbird, with pianist Marie-Eve Scarfone, was recently issued on the ATMA Classique label.  It’s an interesting and varied collection of songs though never straying very far from familiar recital territory.  It’s tilted towards French (Gounod, Chausson, Debussy, Fauré, Bizet) and German (Wolf, Strauss, Brahms, Liszt) repertoire but there’s also Quilter, Barber, Argento and Britten (the comparatively rare Seascape which is, oddly, omitted from the CD liner).

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Since Then…

Yesterday at noon Ileana Montalbetti, currently appearing in the COC’s Götterdämmerung and pianist Rachel Andrist gave a recital in the RBA.  It was five years to the day since they last performed together in that space.  Then she was a promising young singer, now she comes over as a considerable interpretative artist.  The voice is even bigger (and for a piano recital in the small and not very friendly to dramatic sopranos RBA(*) that was a bit of a challenge) but what’s notable is how much more drama and meaning there is in each number.

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COC 2017/18

Last night the Canadian Opera Company announced the line up for the 2017/18 season.  It was all pretty much as predicted.  My predictions post got five out of six right and Dylan was right on the money down to timing.  So what do we get?

The fall season features, finally, Tim Albery’s production of Strauss’ Arabella first seen at Santa Fe.  Erin Wall, as expected, takes the title role while Jane Archibald, in one of three season appearances, sings Zdenka.  The Mandryka will be one of the few high profile imports, Tomasz Konieczny.  There are welcome appearances for David Pomery as Matteo and Claire de Sevigné as Flakermilli.  It’s a season full of Ensemble Studio graduates.  Patrick Lange conducts.  Partnering Arabella is Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore in a production by James Robinson adapted to set the piece in pre WW1 Niagara on the Lake.  Simone Osborne and Andrew Haji play Adina and Nemorino with Gordon Bintner as Belcore.  This is, I think, the first time I’ve seen husband and wife as soloists at the COC though the Pomeroys have been seen on stage together quite a few times.  Brit Andrew Shore rounds things out as Dulcemara.  Yves Abel makes his COC debut in the pit.

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