Yesterday’s lunchtime recital at Walter Hall was a collaboration between the Faculty of Music and the Department of Italian studies and explored the links between the source texts for various Italian operas and arias drawn from them. So each aria was paired with a reading (by Paolo Frascà and Sara Galli) plus an introduction on the literary context by Sara Maida-Nicol who curated the program. It was an interesting idea that turned out to be rather enjoyable. Plus, none of the singers had appeared in Tuesday’s show so it was a chance to take a look at a less familiar bunch.
Last night’s concert by the UoT Fall Baroque Academy was more Sesto in a Sauna then Giulio Cesare in Egitto. The music was all from Handel’s arguably greatest opera but the great man himself went unrepresented. Various mezzos and sopranos plus a counter tenor got through pretty much all of Sesto’s arias, Cleo’s big three arias were all presented and there was a smattering of Cornelia, Tolomeo and one aria from Achilla,the only low voice on display. The venue was Trinity College Chapel, notably not only for lack of air conditioning (on the hottest day of the year) but also for an acoustic that is kind to instrumental ensembles but tends to suck voices up into the high vaulted roof. Some singers coped better than others.
The Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre has now been unveiled, as has the UoT’s concert programme for 2017/18. As usual the RBA programme is a treasure trove with a great deal of interest in the vocal series and beyond. The season brochure is here. Highlights include:
Multiple appearances by members of the Ensemble Studio
Krisztina Szabó with the Esprit Orchestra singing the Berio Folksongs on October 3rd
Various returning former members of the Ensemble Studio including Mr. and Mrs. Bintner with Liz Upchurch on October 19th, Claire de Sévigné with Rachel Andrist on February 14th and Owen McCausland with Stephen Hargreaves on April 17th
Lauren Eberwein with String Quartet on October 31st
Other singers in town for main stage shows also appearing in the RBA include Erin Wall (Oct 24th), Joshua Guerrero (Jan 23rd), Jane Archibald (Feb 20th), Meredith Arwady (Apr 19th), Sondra Radvanovsky (May 1st) and Keri Alkema (May 22nd)
There are previews from UoT Opera’s The Golden Age of Opera (Oct 10th), Against the Grain with Bound (Dec 13th), CCOC with The Monkiest King (Mar 8th), and Opera Atelier with The Return of Ulysses (Mar 29th)
Jeremy Dutcher with Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (Our Maliseet Songs) on April 10th
There’s lots more! All the concerts mentioned above are at noon and are free. Generally one needs to be there early to get a decent seat.
With Easter almost upon us it’s not surprising that the upcoming week is a bit light. Tonight Danika Lorèn and friends at Collectìf have a show at Heliconian Hall at 7.30pm. It’s called As a Stranger and is their take on Schubert’s Winterreise. I’ve been quite taken by this young group’s efforts to date. Tickets are available here. Then tomorrow night Andrew Haji, Megan Quick and a chamber orchestra drawn from the university faculty have a concert in Walter Hall at 7.30pm. Featured works include Schoenberg’s Die Waldtaube from Gurrelieder and Mahler’s (arr. Schoenberg) Das Lied von der Erde. Tickets from the MacMillan box office.
Why do I keep finding myself in the backroom of the Tranzac? We’ve had a relationship for 20 years now; Nomads’ dances, Waterson/Carthy, the first Against the Grain La Bohème. I see ghosts there. Last night I saw the latest in the Vocalis performance series from the UoT Music Faculty grad students. It was a cabaret show with appropriate music from the 20s, 30s and 40s. There was Weill and Eisler and Satie and Poulenc and others. This is music I adore and it was gritty enough and well MC’d by Adi Braun. I wish I could tell you who was singing, Adi aside, because it was really good but there was no program and I wasn’t taking notes. I think it was Tom King on keyboards. There’s a surprising number of shows of this kind on in Toronto that don’t get the heavy promotion treatment. They are worth keeping an eye out for.
This year’s UoT Opera student composed opera sets a libretto by Michael Patrick Albano based on a 1909 story by EM Forster. It’s a dystopian sci-fi story and OK as these things go though one suspects it felt a whole lot more original in 1909. Basically, humanity is living underground in pods with limited face to face interaction. Life is mediated by “The Machine” which increasingly has become an object of veneration as well as utility. The principal characters are Vashti, a believer, and her rebellious son Kuno who is prone to make illegal excursions to the planet surface where, he realises, there are still people living. It’s a bit like Logan’s Run but not as sexy. The Relationship between the two breaks down over their belief systems until The Machine goes belly up at which point there is a reconciliation before everyone dies. Along the way there’s a fair bit of heavy handed philosophising by the narrator and chorus.
I’ve spent a fair chunk of time this week following Barbara Hannigan’s stint as Stratton Visiting Artist in Music at the University of Toronto. I went to a lecture on Tuesday, a masterclass on Thursday and a concert yesterday. Twice already I have sat at the keyboard to try and document my impressions and failed miserably. It’s rare that I’m lost for words but Ms. Hannigan is really hard to describe. This time I shall apply myself with the sort of iron will that she exudes.
Iron will? It’s the thing that seems most striking about the woman but it’s iron will coupled to something approaching an absence of ego and coupled to an essential kindness I think. It’s a really rare combination. I’ve worked with many strong willed people; CEOs, ministers of the crown and the like. There “will” is almost always coupled with a planet sized ego and a near total indifference to people who aren’t useful to them. Classic sociopathy in fact. It’s at the core of our political and economic systems. Hannigan is not a sociopath.