I went to Roy Thomson Hall last night to hear an all Vaughan Williams program conducted by Peter Oundjian. It’s not really my thing but there was a fine quartet of soloists lined up for the Serenade to Music.
Things got going with the Fantasia on “Greensleeves” which was perfectly OK if a bit hackneyed. There was a decent account of the Concerto for Oboe and Strings with Sarah Jeffrey as the soloist. Then there was the Serenade. For some reason the soloists were lined up with the choir (the Elmer Iseler singers) behind the orchestra. The result was sonic mush and textual porridge. I caught exactly one word of the text; “stratagems” for what it’s worth. The rest was not recognisable as English, let alone understandable. And, of course, it was too dark to read the supplied text. This despite soloists; Carla Huhtanen, Emily D’Angelo, Lawrence Wiliford and Tyler Duncan, who are consistently excellent with text. This is becoming very annoying. As often as not when I go to see the TSO do vocal works the soloists are either inaudible or incomprehensible. I know the hall is difficult but the performance of the Ryan Requiem last week showed that it is possible to showcase singers. I think it’s really unfair to audiences and singers alike. Anyway, I was so fed up that I left at the interval.
Moving into winter what does the Toronto opera/concert calendar have to offer? This coming week there’s an interesting looking concert in the RBA at noon on Tuesday. The Haven Trio (soprano Lindsay Kesselman, clarinetist Kimberly Cole Luevano, and pianist Midori Koga) will perform the world premiere of Toronto-based composer Kieren MacMillan’s Three Portraits, a dramatic setting of poems by Dana Gioia, the current Poet Laureate of California.
Last night’s TSO program started off with a sort of Remembrance Day pot pourri; pipes, bugles, a bit of poetry, an excerpt of Vaughan Williams in between and finally a rather beautiful account of The Lark Ascending with Jonathan Crow playing the solo from high up in the Gallery. Once upon a time the TSO would do Remembrance Day by performing an appropriate work or works, Britten’s War Requiem for example. I think that might actually be a more effective way of remembering.
Coming up this next week. Tomorrow Toronto Operetta Theatre are performing Calixa Lavallée’s The Widow. He’s the dude who wrote the music for O Canada! so no idea what to expect. It’s at the Jane Mallett Theatre at 3pm. Monday at 7pm at the Zoomerplex is the IRCPA Singing Stars of Tomorrow concert. My interview with Brett Polegato about it is here. And this is the link for ticket purchase.
Last night’s TSO concert was billed as a Tribute to Maureen Forrester with Ben Heppner MCing. Inevitably the main even was Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde but first there was a sesquie and the premiere of a new piece; L’Aube, for mezzo and orchestra by Howard Shore (he of Lord of the Rings etc). This was a setting of five poems by Elizabeth Cotnoir. It was retro, lush, tonal and, in a sense, well crafted but with very little variation between the movements, all of which were very slow. Susan Platts rich mezzo added to the rather soporific effect. Call me an unreformed modernist if you like but I’m really not sure what a piece like this adds to the symphonic repertoire.
There are still tickets available for Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon at Mazzoleni on Sunday.
On Monday evening at 7.30pm in Walter Hall veteran Canadian mezzo Judith Forst is giving a free master class.
Thursday is the big day. At lunchtime in the RBA you can catch Simone Osborne and Gordon Bintner, currently headlining in L’elisir d’amore on the COC main stage, accompanied by Liz Upchurch (free of course). Later, at 8pm there’s A Tribute to Maureen Forrester at the Symphony. That program features, inter alia, Michael Schade and Susan Platts in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. The program will be repeated on Friday at 7.30pm. Last I checked there were still $25 tickets available.
Adizokan is a collaboration between indigenous production company Red Sky and the TSO. The program last night kicked off with a “sesquie”. This time it was Blood Echo by Carmen Braden. It was about as memorable as most of the sesquies have been. This was followed by Fara Palmer singing her own composition My Roots about the residential school system and cultural survival. It’s in a pop idiom with native drumming and while musically it’s not my thing it had to be there.