Three dresses by Umetsu, at the Glenn Gould Studio.
Here’s a review I wrote for Toronto’s Globe and Mail, of the Amici chamber ensemble’s Sunday concert.
Toronto’s Amici chamber concerts took a turn for the glamorous on Sunday afternoon, at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, with a program called Fashionista.
This marriage of chamber music and haute couture – an example of Amici’s penchant for spicing up their performances with additional elements – brought to the stage a collection of evening gowns by Toronto designer Rosemarie Umetsu and musical selections by three composers. The result was a cross between a concert and a fashion show.
Some ears are more equal than others.
Music-and-the-brain research is all the rage these days. Often, much of it is conducted by scientists whose primary objective may not be to expand the world’s knowledge about music per se: they’re more interested in the brain, and see music as a means of observing and understanding how it works. Nevertheless, some of this research can have value for music and musicians.
Toronto's larger-than-life mayor, Rob Ford.
Here’s a review I wrote for the Globe and Mail of Rob Ford, the Opera, which I saw at the University of Toronto on Sunday.
The operatic repertoire is home to plenty of larger-than-life political figures, from Julius Caesar to Richard Nixon. Even Attila the Hun has his own opera.
Last night, Handel’s Hercules had just come to an end with a rousing chorus when a large screen descended above the stage of Koerner Hall. As the audience, still seated, looked on with curiosity, the screen went sky-blue and a blast of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons boomed out in the hall. With this dramatic flourish, Tafelmusik Media made a “deus ex machina” arrival in the musical world.
Here is the short video that was shown.
Neef announced the 2012-13 season.
There’s a tendency in the opera world for companies to modulate between adventurous and conservative seasons. And it’s not uncommon for a conservative season to follow hard on the heels of an adventurous one – especially if the adventurous season in question turned out to be a challenge at the box-office.
It appears that this tendency has found a happy home at Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company – where, yesterday, general director Alexander Neef announced the COC’s line-up for 2012-13. Next year’s seven operas will be Il Trovatore, Die Fledermaus, Tristan und Isolde, La clemenza di Tito, Lucia di Lammermoor, Salome and Dialogues des Carmélites. All are fine operas, to be sure – but also safe operas.
Soloist and leader Dmitri Berlinsky.
Here’s a review I wrote for Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, about a concert on Sunday by an ensemble that was new to me.
These days, one of the more welcome developments in the classical-music world is the profusion of chamber orchestras. Eastern Europe’s Kremerata Baltica and Moscow Soloists are export industries. And in the United States, there’s been a recent surge of new chamber orchestras, in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities.
Don't give this guy a violin.
Brace yourself, folks – this is pretty outrageous. A Toronto-based blogger called “Camera Lucida” (whom I’m glad to say I don’t know personally) has decided to direct his or her ire at the growing number of East Asian classical musicians.
The rant was apparently inspired by a performance of Handel’s Messiah in New York, sung by a Korean-American choir. Camera Lucida writes:
“As the concert progressed, I began to realize a certain ‘prettiness’ in the performance, a lack of force, drive and even drama. I don't think this is simply a cultural phenomenon (as in misunderstanding the Messiah's content, message, meaning, etc…). I think it is a physio/cerebral problem.”
Some orchestra, playing a concert, somewhere.
One of the remarkable things about the classical music world is the capacity for some of its inhabitants not to understand that any art form must evolve if it is to survive in changing social conditions. Yet a comparison of the operatic and orchestral worlds today illustrates quite clearly what happens when change does and doesn’t occur.
Nowadays, opera offers us Regietheater, which (love it or hate it) has placed the role of the director front and centre. We also have surtitles, offering audiences a simultaneous translation of the text. And, most recently, we have the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts – and now other prominent companies are offering opera performances in cinemas and online.
Cellphone users proceed to the lowest level.
The news of the day is that a man attending a New York Philharmonic concert let his new i-phone ring unchecked for a minute or so, during Mahler’s Ninth. Conductor Alan Gilbert stopped the performance until the offending device was switched off. (You can read about it here, or here.)
This problem has been with us for a while, and it seems to be getting worse, rather than better. Personally, I’ll never forget the mobile phone that went off during a delicate moment in a Toronto performance by Lang Lang, a few years ago. Such things remain etched in the mind – and if Dante were alive today, he’d invent a new circle in hell just for people who perpetrate such outrages.
A million dollar question?
There’s been a flurry interest in a test recently done in Indianapolis, in which old violins by famous makers from Cremona were compared to fine modern instruments. The 21 violinists who participated in the experiment were asked to try out six instruments, and to guess which were by Antonio Stradivari or Guarneri “del Gesù,” and which were recently made. (You can read about this experiment in more detail, here.)
It reminds me of Galileo’s experiment of 1589, when the scientist dropped two rocks of different mass at the same time from the Tower of Pisa. In so doing, he demonstrated that they fall at the same speed – and disproved the Aristotelian theory that heavy objects fall faster than light ones. In an instant, Galileo demolished a “well established fact” that had been widely believed for centuries.