Russell Thomas in the RBA

American tenor Russell Thomas, currently singing Don José in the COC’s Carmen, gave the lunchtime recital in the RBA yesterday.  The main item on the program was Schumann’s Dichterliebe; a setting of sixteen poems by Heinrich Heine and one of the great test pieces of the classic German lieder repertoire.  It was a red-blooded, operatic account.  Purists might think too much so but I enjoyed the sheer power and beauty of it, even at the expense of the (incredibly wonderful) text not getting the sort of attention it might get from someone like Ian Bostridge.  There was plenty of variation of tone and colour, some real virtuosity and even some humour in, for example, Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen but the the most impressive and striking thing was the ability to effortlessly project a lot of rather beautiful sound.  Liz Upchurch’s accompaniment was very much in synch emotionally and musically.

SONY DSC

Continue reading

Christopher Purves in the RBA

British baritone Christopher Purves was the lunch special at the Four Seasons Centre today.  Along with the amazing Liz Upchurch he gave us a most enjoyable program of Handel, Duparc and Mussorgsky.  The two Handel arias were drawn from Handel’s two very different takes on Ovid’s Acis and Galatea.  The first from the later (1718) English version “I rage, I melt, I burn!… O ruddier than the cherry tree” is a mostly comic furioso recitative and aria sung with great drama and not a little comedy by Chris but it was rather eclipsed by the next number taken from the earlier (1708) Aci, Galatea e Polifemo.  Polyphemus’ aria “Fra l’ombre e gl’orrori” is just nuts but very beautiful.  It ranges from the D below the bass staff to the A above it and is a continuous series of insane intervals accompanied by a really simple and very beautiful piano part.  It’s amazing anybody can sing it all let alone as well as it was done here.

purves

Continue reading

Où dort la fantaisie

Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured two members of the Ensemble Studio.  Andrew Haji, standing in for an indisposed Charles Sy, and Jennifer Szeto performed Liszt’s Tre Sonetti di Petrarca.  These songs were unfamiliar to me and came as a pleasant surprise.  They are very Italianate and very operatic and have a pretty involved piano part (unsurprisingly).  Haji displayed his uncanny ability to find exactly the right idiom for the music and sang with beauty and expression as well as nailing the three high D flats.  Szeto was a most accomplished accompanist. Great dress too!  New Yorkers can catch these two in the Marilyn Horne Song Celebration at Carnegie Hall on Saturday where they will perform the same music.

Jan19RBA4

Continue reading

The Diary of The One Who Didn’t Disappear

The on/off saga of the Ensemble Studio’s promised Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared came to an apparent conclusion yesterday.  It had been postponed at least once and even this morning the COC website is advertising a complete performance with two soloists and a small chorus.

cocIt didn’t happen.  What we got was a recital by Owen McAusland singing some excerpts from the Janáček plus Vaughan William’s The House of Life and Britten’s Les Illuminations.  It was his last performance as a member of the Ensemble Studio during which time, among many other things, he sang several main stage performances as Tito covering for a sick Michael Schade.

Continue reading

Thirteen songs in search of an audience

This morning I went to the COC website to see what Josh Hopkins would be singing at lunchtime.  Bottom line, he wasn’t.  His recital had been replaced by a hastily put together program of pieces to be sung by Owen McCausland, Karine Boucher and Aviva Fortunata.  Given that Liz Upchurch said it was pieces they were looking for an audience for I’d guess it’s audition/competition rep that they are working on and therefore, to some extent, work in progress.

Continue reading

Poetic Love

Today’s lunch time concert in the RBA was a lieder recital by two Ensemble Studio members; bass-baritone Gordon Bintner and tenor Andrew Haji.  Both singers sang settings of texts by Heinrich Heine.  Bintner, accompanied by Jennifer Szeto kicked off with selections from Schubert’s Schwanengesang to be followed by Haji and Liz Upchurch with Schumann’s Dichterliebe.

2015-04-09-COC-Poetic Love-002 Continue reading

Barbara Hannigan in the RBA

OK so who noticed that Barbara contains RBA twice?  A perfect fit one might say and so it proved.  In a short late afternoon concert Ms. Hannigan, joined by the TSO Chamber Soloists (Jonathan Crow, Peter Seminovs, Teng Li and Joseph Johnson) and Liz Upchurch, showed her chops as one of the day’s best interpreters of modern vocal music.   First up was the String Quartet No.2 by Schoenberg.  This is a most unusual quartet in that the players are joined by a soprano soloist for the third and fourth movements.  It’s also unusual in that, although it predates Schoenberg’s full blown serialism, the first three movements are tonal (just) but the last is a full on experiment in atonality.  None of this makes it easy to play or sing!

2015-02-24-COC-Rapture-004 Continue reading