This just in. Ukrainian Canadian soprano Natalya Gennadi will replace Ambur Braid in the title role in Tapestry’s Oksana G. I should have seen that coming as I know that Ambur is singing in a Krenek’s The Secret Kingdom at Oper Frankfurt until May 21st and Oksana G. opens on the 24th! I’ve only seen Ms. Gennadi sing once but she was impressive and she’s a protégée of Sondra Radvanovsky.
Sadder, Talisker Players are shutting up shop at the end of the season after eighteen years. Likely another example of there only being so long any one person or team can keep up the funding grind. Talisker’s concerts were an often interesting mix of music and related readings and no-one else really operates in that niche.
Tapestry Songbook is the culmination of New Opera 101; a week long masterclass where young singers get to work with established performers on repertoire from Tapestry’s extensive collection of recent Canadian work. This year the “masters” were Krisztina Szabó, Keith Klassen and Steven Philcox. The week culminates with a series of concerts of :scenes”; some performed by the “masters” and some by the students. s there were fourteen pieces performed and a cast of thousands I’m just going to report on my personal favourites with due apologies to anyone who got left out.
Klassen, Szabó and Philcox kicked things off with the rather disturbing Merk’s Dream; a collaboration from the 2011 LibLab by Nick Carpenter and Elisabeth Mehl Greene. It’s a creepy vignette of a dying man trying to get through, and largely failing, to his developmentally challenged daughter, brilliantly portrayed by Szabó. This was followed by In This World George is Heartbroken; a 2012 LibLab piece by Hannah Moscovitch and Lembit Beecher about various, largely imagined, aspects of a dull middle class marriage. By turns hilarious and violent it featured a really interesting prepared piano accompaniment and featured three of the stars of the evening; Gwenna Fairchild-Taylor, Janaka Welihinda and, new to me, the very impressive Markéta Ornova on piano.
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.
It’s that time of year when it’s traditional to do best of the year lists. Fortunately this is all about music because in most other respects 2016 was a bit of a horror show. So here goes. As far as opera proper was concerned it was a pretty good year. There were no real howlers in the COC’s season. It was solid and, at its best, better than that, For me, Ariodante was the standout; an intelligent, thought provoking production backed up by extremely good acting and singing. I was really expecting to like the Claus Guth Marriage of Figaro more than I did. I enjoyed it but I was a bit perplexed by the lightening up that had taken place since Salzburg in 2006. Opera Atelier had their best show in quite a while with Lucio Silla but even Wallis Giunta couldn’t save a misconceived Dido and Aeneas.
So finally we have dates and casting for the long awaited Oksana G (music Aaron Gervais, libretto Colleen Murphy) from Tapestry Opera. This one has been years in the making. Back when I saw the second act workshop in 2012 there were all kinds of rumours about who would eventually (co)produce it. Now it looks like Tapestry have come up the resources to do it as a standalone. That’s no mean feat as this is a full blown two acter with orchestra and chorus. It will play May 24th – 30th, 2017, at the Imperial Oil Opera Theatre of the Canadian Opera Company, 227 Front St. E. (just around the corner from the Kitten Kondo) and the title role will be played by Operaramblings’ favourite crazy lady Ambur Braid. As she showed recently as Dalinda in the COC’s Ariodante she’s now much more than a series of impressive high notes. She’s become a singing actress of real substance and Oksana is certainly a role a girl could get her teeth into. The rest of the casting is also impressive with the always impressive Krisztina Szabó as Oksana’s mother, Adam Fisher as Father Alexander, and Keith Klassen as the baddy Konstantin. Jordan de Souza conducts and Tom Diamond directs. This is one not to miss!
Naomi’s Road; music by Ramona Luengen, lbretto by Anne Hodges,has been around as an opera for ten years or so and it got its Toronto premier last night at St. David’s Anglican Church in a production directed by Michael Mori for Tapestry Opera. It’s based on Joy Kogawa’s novel for children of the same name which tells the story of Naomi and her brother Stephen; Japanese-Canadian children torn from a comfortable middle class Vancouver home by the WW2 era Canadian government’s policy of interning Canadians of Japanese descent as “enemy aliens”. It’s a shameful story and one that Canadians need to know about in an era when fear of the “other” is being stoked on all sides. Perhaps we like to look down our noses at the antics of our neighbours to the south but our own history has its dark side and we need to remember.
Tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon Off Centre Music Salon opens its 2016/17 season at 3pm at Trinity St. Paul’s. It’s an all Russian show called Four Seasons or Mother Russia. It will feature songs by Prokofiev’s The Ugly Duckling and songs byTchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff, as well as Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor (op. 32). The highlight is the Toronto premiere of Valery Gavrilin’s song cycle Seasons inspired by Northern Russian folklore and chanting traditions. Performers include cellist Igor Gefter, pianists Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin, violinist Mark Skazinetky and singers Joni Henson and Ryan Harper.