One of the initiatives that Peter Oundjian undertook when he was appointed music director of the Toronto Symphony, back in the dark days of 2004, was a project called New Creations. It began as a three-concert mini-festival of contemporary works and has retained this format for 14 years. Through those years, New Creations has displayed a wide range of programming (often thanks to guest curators) and has showcased the TSO as a band that’s an enthusiastic “quick study” where new music is concerned. As well, New Creations has often attracted sizeable audiences, including many young people.
The big news about the Canadian Opera Company’s current production of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio (in case you haven’t heard) is that director Wajdi Mouawad has substantially expanded on the original spoken dialogue of Christoph Friedrich Bretzner and Gottlieb Stephanie. In so doing he has surgically deconstructed some of the implicit values buried in the text – values rooted in 18th-century Western culture. As well, Mouawad has invented a prologue, in which the happy couples are seen to be safely returned to Europe, thereby turning the whole opera into a flashback. And as if all this were not enough, he also inserted a Muslim prayer scene.
I haven’t posted one of these “New Music I Like” blogs in a long time. In fact, I wasn’t thinking about posting another one until I found myself watching TV late at night, on Tuesday. I had the Late Late Show on in the background, and wasn’t really paying much attention to it – until “MΛX” (i.e. Max Schneider) and an unnamed harpist took to the screen.
“Eatock Daily” is a classical music blog – and I claim no real knowledge of any other kind of music. As for pop music, I haven’t paid much attention to it since 1979, so I’d never heard of MΛX before Tuesday. But a little Googling revealed that he’s an American musician and actor whose star is on the rise.
The audience for the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Rigoletto got a little more than it expected on Saturday (Jan. 27), when not one but two Dukes of Mantua took to the stage.
Tenor Stephen Costello was scheduled to sing the role. Then, at the opening of Act II, it was announced that he was in poor health but would carry on. However, in Act III he did not reappear, but tenor Joshua Guerrero (scheduled to sing the role at the COC from Feb. 11-23) stepped in. Although it was Costello who did most of the heavy lifting on Saturday, it was Guerrero who took the final bow.
elmusik has been presenting multi-media concerts for a while now. Since 2009, when Toronto’s “period” baroque orchestra staged The Galileo Project, these concerts have popped almost annually, all (largely) created by the orchestra’s multi-talented bassist, Alison Mackay.
Indeed, their ongoing success can be attributed to the winsome application of a effective formula: music, projected images and spoken-word narration, constructed around some kind of unifying theme.
In the first few multimedia productions, the themes Mackay chose often seemed suitable for infomercials emanating from some imagined “Ministry of Baroque Industry, Trade and Commerce.” Audiences learned, in much detail, about how telescopes, raisins, mirrors, linen, ink, candles, wire and coffee (among other things) were produced in Europe, back in the day.
I made my first trek to Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall of 2018 last Friday night (Jan. 12), for a Toronto Symphony program that I anticipated with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, the program featured Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, to be played by the TSO’s principal clarinettist, Joaquin Valdepeñas. Nothing wrong with that idea! On the other, the concerto was to be enfolded in one of conductor-composer-lecturer Robert Kapilow’s “What Makes It Great?” programs, and that was something I felt a little uneasy about.
I originally wrote this article for Early Music America magazine.
The Toronto Consort has been run so smoothly for so many years that the organization has tended to fly under the media’s radar. But in October, the organization made itself noticed when it announced that long-serving artistic director and tenor vocalist David Fallis would be stepping down at the end of the 2017-18 season (sort of). The directorship will be assumed by an eight-member group of artistic associates, including Fallis and many of the musicians who perform regularly with the nine-member ensemble. The Consort is set to become a consortium.
I originally wrote this review for the Classical Voice North America website.
Since the end of World War I, Remembrance Day (Canada’s version of Veterans Day) has been a significant occasion for Canadians. Between 1914 and 1918, the Dominion of Canada lost over 60,000 soldiers in the “War to End All Wars.” Nowadays, there are memorial observances and events across the country from coast to coast, every November 11.
Is there an opera in the standard repertoire that’s sweeter than The Elixir of Love? If there is, I don’t know it. And the Canadian Opera Company has celebrated the sweetness and lightness of Donizetti’s 1832 opera with a production that’s as sweet as honey and as light as a feather.
The COC rather boldly claims this Elixir as a “new production” – although stage director James Robinson has already mounted it in San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and other places. Originally placed in “Anytown U.S.A.” in the early 20th century, the Toronto production shifts it north, to small-town Ontario, draping Red Ensigns on the gazebo that dominates the set. It’s a transformation that works quite well, bringing the audience closer, in time and space, to the action.
Arabella – do you know it?
You can be excused, gentle reader, if you don’t. Richard Strauss’s opera of 1933 isn’t done much, except in German-speaking countries, these days. For Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company, this Arabella was a company premiere – and a glance at the Operabase website (see here) reveals that the COC is the only company outside Germany staging the piece this year. But then perhaps all this makes sense, as the COC has Germanic leanings these days. (I am reminded of the time that Toronto Symphony conductor Peter Oundjian naughtily referred to the COC as “Die Deutsche Oper am Ontariosee.”)
I'm a composer based in Toronto – and this is my classical music blog, Eatock Daily.
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