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Volume 19 Issue 5 - February 2014

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  • February
  • Toronto
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contemporaries,” he

contemporaries,” he says. Capella Intima will perform Dafne oncein Hamilton, at MacNeill Baptist Church at 2pm on February 22, andtwice in Toronto, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre at 2pm on February 23and as part of the COC’s noon-hour concert series on February 26 atthe Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.Windermere: Another early music group performing concerts thatare somewhat off the beaten path is the Windermere String Quartet.You would think Haydn and Mozart string quartets would be standardrepertoire for early music players, but somehow in the last 20 yearsearly music decided to stop at Bach and the late 18th century becamethe sole territory of modern players, beyond which few historicallyinformed performers dare to pass. Thankfully, this particularstring quartet isn’t afraid to play Mozart and Haydn on period instruments,and regular concertgoers should at least be grateful that theycan give audiences the option of a refreshing perspective on two of thefounding fathers of Western classical music.Violinist Elizabeth Loewen Andrews explains the differencebetween playing classical music on modern and period instruments.“You lose a lot of the sense of texture playing with vibrato andsustaining the lines,” she says. “The parts get covered up and you don’tget to see how a composer like Haydn or Beethoven used the differentinstruments to make the music denser or more sparse.”The Windermere Quartet recently concluded a six-part concertseries comprising the Haydn opus 33 quartets, the Mozart “Haydn”Quartets and Beethoven’s opus 18 quartets. Their next concert – atSt. Olave’s Anglican Church, February 16 at 3pm – will be less ambitiousin scope, consisting of the Haydn String Quartet Op.76 No.1and the Mozart Flute Quartet in D Major K285, joined for the latterby Alison Melville on flauto traverso. This concert will happen atSt. Olave’s Anglican Church at 360 Windermere Ave. on February 16at 3pm (Bloor and Windermere, Jane Subway). And hey, if you thinkplaying Haydn and Mozart on period instruments isn’t a good idea,just remember that Tafelmusik got their start the exact same way.Scaramella: I’ve talked about Scaramella in this column before, andthe ensemble’s programming is strange and interesting enough that Ithink they’re worth mentioning again. Joëlle Morton has put togethera concert featuring music from 18th-century Vienna; with compositionsby Karl Ditters van Dittersdorf and Haydn, it should be excellent.What’s so original about this particular concert? It’s capital-Cclassical music composed without violins. Morton will be playingthe Viennese double bass (I had no idea this was an instrumentdistinct from the regular double bass), and while she will be joinedby Mylène Guay on classical flute and Derek Conrod and ChristinePassmore on natural horn, there will be no upper strings in the wholeconcert except for a lone viola (Kathleen Kajioka). Morton is knownfor curating some of the most innovative concert programs on theToronto early music scene, and given that you would usually associateViennese classical music with string quartets (see above) andsymphonies, this concert will be an eccentric program of music youwon’t get a chance to hear again for a long while. Scaramella willpresent this concert at Victoria College Chapel on February 1 at 8pm.Give it a shot.To cleanse your palate for the month’s adventurous and strange,Tafelmusik will present a mostly-Bach program on February 1 at8pm and again on February 2 at 3:30pm at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre).The concert will feature the Suite for Flute and Strings and Bach’sConcerto for Flute, Violin, and Harpsichord. Given that Bach was themost consistent composer of all time, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll bedisappointed. Finally, if you prefer renaissance music, the Musiciansin Ordinary will be playing a concert at Heliconian Hall for lute, voiceand strings that features some of the most well-known composers ofthe English Renaissance including William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons,Thomas Campion, and John Dowland, so it’s also a safe bet you’ll hearsomething you like on the program.David Podgorski is a Toronto-based harpsichordist, musicteacher and a founding member of Rezonance. He canbe contacted at earlymusic@thewholenote.com.Beat by Beat | On OperaAnd Then ThereWere SixCHRISTOPHER HOILEOn January 15 the Canadian Opera Company announcedits 2014/15 season. In contrast to the current season thatfeatures three company premieres, the 2014/15 season revivesthree famous productions from the past – Madama Butterfly, DieWalküre and Bluebeard’s Castle/Erwartung – and has no companypremieres. Instead, there will be three new productions of standardrepertory – Falstaff, Don Giovanni and The Barber of Seville. Patronswho have been happy to see the company exploring new repertoireare bound to be disappointed. Even more disappointing is the factthat the COC is presenting only six productions, not the seven it haspresented ever since it moved into the Four Seasons Centre in 2006.At first glance one fewer production might not seem important. Yet,anyone who attended the late Richard Bradshaw’s press conferencesleading up to the opening of the new opera house will know that itis. Bradshaw always mentioned to the press that it was impossiblefor the COC to present a balanced season with only six productions.He said he therefore had to program operas with a view to achievingbalance over several seasons. The reason why the COC added a seventhproduction once it moved into the Four Seasons Centre was part of alarger plan to increase that number eventually to at least eight in orderto match the number of productions presented by the most importantAmerican opera houses after the Met – like the Lyric Opera of Chicago,the Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera. To return to sixproductions looks like the postponement of that dream.In fact, the last time the COC presented only six productions was inthe 2000/01 season and before that in the 1994/95 season. It presentedsix or fewer from its founding to the 1982/83 season, then somehowmanaged eight operas from the 1983/84 season to 1992/93.Before the 2009/10 season, the COC gave the Ensemble Studio itsown production which made six operas into seven. Granted, thesewere on a smaller scale, but this allowed the COC to delve into smallerworks outside the standard repertory with rarities by Gazzaniga,Walton, Sartorio, Cavalli and Ullmann. This slot also allowed the COCto present new Canadian works such as Swoon (2006) by James Rolfeor Red Emma (1995) by Gary Kulesha without the expense and risk ofa mainstage production. If the company must move back to six operas,perhaps it should give the Ensemble Studio its own production againto offer more variety in programming and give cause once more forthe Studio members’ work to be reviewed in a context less contrainedthan the one-night Ensemble production of a current mainstageproduction such as the current production of Cosí.Frankly, the retreat to six productions might be less troubling if itwere not so clearly dictated by financial considerations. In his entry onJune 18, 2013, in his blog Musical Toronto (musicaltoronto.org), musiccritic John Terauds remarked that the COC was trying to put a positivespin on bad fiscal news. He noted that “Since the 2009/10 season,the Canadian Opera Company’s net ticket revenues have fallen by23.5 percent, while overall attendance has dropped by 16.7 percent.”He concluded that “Our city’s musical bounty sits perched on aknife’s edge.” On June 17, 2013, Arthur Kaptainis of the National Postafter reviewing the same information went further and ventured anoutright prediction, which now has come to pass. He said, “The downwardturn at the COC is troubling. My crystal ball says the 2014/15season will contract from seven productions to six. I believe you readit here first.”Both Terauds and Kaptainis note that the COC gave 67 performancesin the 2011/12 season but only 61 in the 2012/13 season. In the presentseason there are only 58 performances. While the administration toutsthe fact that attendance at the COC has been 90 percent or above sinceit moved into the new opera house, that figure is meaningless if the20 | February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 thewholenote.com

JAVIER DEL REALGARY MULCAHEYOpera’s finest talent at COC next season: (from left) Russell Braun as Don Giovanni from the 2013Teatro Real Madrid production; Gerald Finley, John Relyea, and Christine Goerkenumber of performances is reduced every year. For 2011/12 attendancereached 125,238, but for 2012/13 it was 114,133 – a drop of 11,105in one year. It should be obvious that in shrinking from 67 performancesto 58, the company has lost the equivalent of nine performanceswhich equal one full opera production. It should therefore not besurprising that the company has decided to drop one production.What has caused such a precipitous drop in such a short time?Kaptainis mentions that L’Opéra de Montréal, experiencing a similardecline, puts the blame on the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD cinemabroadcasts whose original goal was to increase attendance at theMet. Kaptainis however points the finger on COC general directorAlexander Neef’s penchant for Regietheater.Now Regietheater, or opera productions guided by a directorialconcept, can be either good or bad. The three famous COC productionsto be revived in 2014/15 are all examples of Regietheater at itsbest, where a directorial concept illuminates an opera. Unfortunately,the COC has recently presented several examples, in my opinion,of Regietheater at its worst. One thinks of Christopher Alden’s DieFledermaus and La Clemenza di Tito in the 2012/13 season or ZhangHuan’s Semele in 2011/12. Here the directors rather than illuminatingthe operas deliberately subverted their stories.The plan to move back to a six-opera season was known beforeJanuary 15. Neef first revealed it in the Fall 2013 edition of the COC’smagazine, Prelude, citing the burden that seven operas places on thecompany without ever mentioning declining attendance. He stated,“Since 2007 we’ve forced the seven-opera model to function, but ata cost of too many compromises – artistically, financially, and from apatron and staffing perspective.” With the six-opera season, he said,“We’ll have more financial flexibility to produce more grand operas,and contemplate some new productions.” Speaking of the 2014/15season, he predicted, “Starting next season, you’ll see more variedrepertoire, including the potential for one grand and/or new operaper season.”Unfortunately, the announced 2014/15 season contradicts thisprediction. Not only has Bradshaw’s goal been set aside but so, itseems, have goals of Neef’s. In 2010 when Neef announced the firstseason solely chosen by him, he said that he wanted to fill in gaps instandard repertory that the COC had never done, such as Parsifal andNabucco. He also pledged to present one contemporary operaper season. Following this, he gave us Nixon in China in 2010/11and L’Amour de loin in 2011/12. Neither of these goals is evident inthe 2014/15 season. Bluebeard’s Castle (1918) and Erwartung (written1909) can hardly be considered “contemporary” and the three newproductions are of operas the COC has often done before.Looking at the figures, the problem does not seem to lie withthe seven-opera model per se, as Neef claims, but with a decline inattendance that makes seven operas impracticable. Ultimately, theCOC needs to be more open about these difficulties. If a companyis having problems, people will help. If it claims that all is well,people will not. Why is attendance now lower than the 117,700 at theHummingbird Centre in 2004/05? The COC needs to identify why itis losing patrons – especially now that Toronto finally has one of thefinest opera houses in the world and can attract the finest talent inthe world.The most positive side to the 2014/15 announcement (and there isa positive side!) is that COC audiences will indeed be seeing so muchof opera’s finest talent next season. Appearing will be such stars asChristine Goerke, Patricia Racette, Jane Archibald, Russell Braun,Gerald Finley, Clifton Forbis, Ekaterina Gubanova, Marie-NicoleLemieux, John Relyea, Michael Schade, Lauren Segal and KrisztinaSzabó. Let’s hope that next season represents a period of adjustmentwhile the COC finds out how to win back those it lost. To inquireabout subscriptions, visit coc.ca.Christopher Hoile is a Toronto-based writer on opera andtheatre. He can be contacted at opera@thewholenote.com.Most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at noon or 5:30 p.m.“A beautiful room, interesting artists of all varietiesand it is free.”ToronTo STarcoc.ca 416-363-8231Media SponSorSShirantha Beddage performs in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Tim Flynn, 2013Creative: BT/Athewholenote.com February 1, 2014 - March 7, 2014 | 21

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