Signal boosting

charlotte-poster-dots-600I didn’t actually see anything much in the Luminato line up that got my juices flowing but my attention has now been drawn to CHARLOTTE: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music.  It’s a Singspiel about a young female Jewish artist struggling with her identity and art during the early 1940s.  She ends up in Auschwitz.  You get the picture.  The title role is being played by Adanya Dunn and the musical director is Peter Tiefenbach which, frankly, are reasons enough to go see it.  It plays June 16th to 18th at the Theatre Centre on Queen Street West.  More details here.

On a completely different tack, Jane Cooper is trying to raise funds to publish her biography of Bertha Crawford, a Canadian soprano who enjoyed a very successful operatic career in Poland and Russia in the early 20th century but who has been largely forgotten.  You can find out more at Jane’s Kickstarter page.

The Chocolate Soldier

Toronto Operetta Theatre’s current production is Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Soldier in the English version.  It’s based on Shaw’s Arms and the Man but, as is usually the case with musical adaptations of Shaw, it’s rather less acerbic than the original.  In fact, it comes over as a somewhat farcical love story with a few gentle pot shots at the military and militarism.  There are some good comic lines and the music is tuneful and well crafted.

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Glenn Gould School Vocal Showcase

lillianbrooks

Lillian Brooks

The GGS Vocal Showcase is an opportunity to take a look at the vocal talent on offer at the Royal Conservatory.  It’s a tricky exercise as the students range from the equivalent of first year undergrad to second year masters so one is constantly recalibrating expectations.  We got to hear one bass, two baritones, three tenors, one mezzo soprano and fourteen sopranos in a variety of arias, art songs and ensemble numbers.

So, in no particular order my favourites and “ones to watch”.  Lets start with the obvious.  Gabriel Sanchez-Ortega is a genuine bass.  We only heard him in some Haydn trios last night but he seems to have heft and genuine low notes and quite a wide range.  He’s also still quite young.  Singing with him was soprano Joanna Burt who also gave us an aria from La Cecchina.  She has real potential as a dramatic soprano which is the one part of the tweeter market that isn’t flooded.  She has some nice dark colours as well as weight.  The trios were rounded out by tenor Zachary Rioux.  He held his own with two pretty big voices so we’ll see.

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Cendrillon in Viardot’s salon

The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music opened a two performance run of Viardot’s Cendrillon last night at Mazzoleni Hall.  The conceit was that we and the performers were all guests in Mme, Viardot’s salon and to this end we were all given a slip of paper with our character name on it but I promptly lost mine and it wasn’t actually needed for anything,  Cute idea though.  It also allowed for a production that fitted with the acutely limited staging resources of Mazzoleni.  The piece is heavy on dialogue and it was presented in English, in an updated translation that had its moments.  I doubt the Viardot household had ever heard of “organic, non GMO, fair trade” coffee.

Photo: Nicola Betts

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Viardot’s Cendrillon

330px-salon_of_pauline_viardot_-_gallicaPauline Viardot is one of those names that crops up quite a bit when one is researching the opera of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  She was a mezzo-soprano of some note, friend (at the least) of both Turgenev and Chopin, hosted a notable Parisian salon and composed; though, being female, she was not taken entirely seriously by the musical establishment of the time.  Among her compositions is a “chamber operetta”, Cendrillon, designed for performance at her salon and written when Viardot was already in her eighties.  It’s going to be performed again this fall in Mazzoleni Hall at the Royal Conservatory and I sat down yesterday with director Joel Ivany to talk about the issues involved in staging such an unusual piece in a venue that’s not entirely opera friendly.

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Welcome and Adieu

23_nathalie_paulinThe first concert in this season’s Mazzoleni Songmasters series featured sopranos Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher with pianists Peter Tiefenbach and Robert Kortgaard in an eclectic program of English and fFrench songs on the theme of coming and going.  First up was a set of Purcell songs which is always going to score brownie points with me.  I’ve never heard Sound the Trumpet or Be Welcome, Then, Great Sir sung by female voices so that was interesting.  The duet was really nice and Nathalie sang quite beautifully in the welcome ode.  Monica followed up with fine versions of Dear Pretty Youth and An Evening Hymn.   Continue reading

Next week

nathaliepaulin_365sq.jpgThe Mazzoleni Songmasters series opens this afternoon at 2pm in, surprise, Mazzoleni Hall at the conservatory.  Nathalie Paulin and Monica Whicher present Welcome and Adieu; a program of English and French songs and duets.  Collaborative pianists are Robert Kortgaard and Peter Tiefenbach.

Tuesday at noon in the RBA sees the students of UoT Opera present an all Mozart program. It’s semi staged and the program is duets and ensemble numbers so not your usual fare.  Free of course but probably one one will need to arrive early for.

Norma and Ariodante continue at the COC as does Dido and Aeneas at Opera Atelier.