Coming up

strangerWith 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.


Not a review

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.


The Machine Stops

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.


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My week with Barbara

Barbara-Hannigan-01-smaller-credit-Raphael-BrandI’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.

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Heating up

Faculty_of_Music,_University_of_Toronto_-_from_Philosopher's_Walk_-_DSC09874Next week things get rather busy.  There’s all the Hannigan shenanigans at UoT ; lecturing, masterclassing, concerting, walking on water, details here.  There are a couple of lunchtime concerts in the RBA.  Tuesday sees Gordon Bintner and Charles Sy perform Schumann’s Liederkreis and Britten’s Les Illuminations while on Thursday Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure appears with the members of the COC Orchestra Academy and their mentors.

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Hannigan and more

The amazing Barbara Hannigan is in town next week teaching at the UoT.  There are a number of events open to the public and free.  Here’s a list:

Tues, Jan 19, 10:30 am, Walter Hall
Lecture – Show and Share: Living and Surviving as a Singing Artist

Tues, Jan 19, 12:10 pm, Walter Hall
Master Class with U of T Opera students – featuring excerpts from the contemporary operatic repertoire centering on The Machine Stops, a new opera by the Faculty’s student composer collective.

Wed, Jan 20, 3:10 pm, Room 330 @ 80 Queen’s Park
Interactive session – Dare to Compare: session with composers, pianists and instrumentalists from U of T’s contemporary music ensemble.

Thu, Jan 21, 12:10 pm, Walter Hall
Master Class with U of T Voice students – featuring songs and chamber music of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Fri, Jan 22, 5 pm, Walter Hall
Concert – Performances by Faculty of Music singers and pianists after their training with Barbara, as well as from Barbara herself with pianist Professor Steven Philcox.

ETA: She’s also appearing with the TSO on Jan 27 and 28  singing Correspondances by Henri Dutilleux.  There’s no stopping her!


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Diva, diva, diva

Danika Loren

Danika Loren

Today’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured the assembled students of UoT Opera in a staged programme called The Art of the Prima Donna.  It was a sequence of mostly ensemble numbers drawn from the core 19th century rep.  Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Donizetti, Bellini, Bizet and Rossini all featured with works made famous by the great divas of the era’ Patti, Pasta, Malibran etc.  Linking narrative, which skipped over who slept with Rossini, was provided by Michael Albano who directed the staging with Anna Theodosakis.  Sandra Horst headed up the musical side and accompanied with help from Sue Black, Kate Carver and Ivan Jovanovic. Continue reading